MIAMI — Just over two weeks behind British Airways (BA), Virgin Atlantic welcomed its first factory-fresh Airbus A350-1000, becoming the second UK and European operator of the largest A350 variant.
For months, it was seen as a match in which both BA and VS competed to become the UK’s first A350-1000 operator. British Airways took the win.
Virgin Atlantic has another 11 A350-1000s on order, with three of them expected to join the airline’s fleet in 2019.
The first A350-1000 (G-VLUX • MSN 274) arrived from Toulouse into London-Gatwick (LGW) on the evening of August 10, 2019, as flight VIR853P.
The plane is expected to remain in LGW for some post-delivery maintenance work, then to be deployed on some crew training flights for the remainder of August.
According to the carrier, the first four A350-1000s will be based at London-Heathrow (LHR). The first flights will launch in September to New York (JFK) six times per week.
“Our A350-1000s will first operate on flights between London-Heathrow, New York and Atlanta creating more capacity in Upper Class and more choice for customers,” the airline said in a statement.
“We’re providing a seamless customer journey across our joint venture, aligning closely with Delta, who introduced a three-cabin configuration with their first A350 in 2017.”
The British carrier will introduce its all-new premium concept called The Loft, located right ahead of 44 Upper Class seats, 56 Premium Economy seats, and 235 Economy Class seats on the rear section of the large fuselage.
With the arrival of the A350-1000, Virgin Atlantic plans to replace its remaining Boeing 747-400s and A340-600s, of which the carrier was the launch operator.
Altogether, Virgin Atlantic operated 19 A340-600s. Now with just six remainings in its fleet, the transition from four engines to two is more than imminent, as the carrier expects to bid farewell to its last A340-600s by the end of this summer.
As far as Virgin Atlantic’s eight Boeing 747-400s, these are expected to be phased out by 2021.
The Boeing 747 has been in the carrier’s fleet since the very beginning. In 1984, the carrier launched operations with the venerable Boeing 747-200s.
As of today, Virgin Atlantic operates a fleet of four Airbus A330-200s, ten A330-300s, and 16 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.
Moreover, the airline will soon replace its A330-200/300s with brand-new A330-900s, which were ordered at this year’s Paris Air Show.
“We are undertaking our biggest fleet transformation ever. We are placing an order for 14 A330neo with 6 options from 2021. The average age of the fleet will be 5.4 years by 2024,” said the airline’s CEO, Shai Weiss, at the time of the order announcement.
Virgin Atlantic will operate the A330-900neo with the Rolls Royce Trent 7000 engines.