Coverage by Chris Sloan, Written by Tomos Howells

PARIS – British Carrier Virgin Atlantic has announced an order for 14 the A330-900 at the Paris air show today.

The order is split with the carrier confirming a firm order for eight of the A330neo with an additional six aircraft being leased by the carrier from ALC.

The order is part of the carriers fleet modernisation plans as it looks to replace its ageing Boeing 747 and Airbus A330 fleet.

The carrier already has placed an order for 12 of Airbus’ new flagship aircraft the A350-1000, the first of which is expected to arrive this year.

Virgin will initially take delivery of four of the A350-1000s this year which, the first six of which will be used to replace the airlines ageing A340 fleet, which are due to be retired at the end of this year.

Shai Weiss CEO of Virgin Atlantic commented on this new order, highlighting the reasons being fleet renewal.

“We are undertaking our biggest fleet transformation ever. I am delighted to make advancement in the home of Air France our future JV partner. 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.”

Virgin Atlantic will operate the A330-900neo with the Rolls Royce Trent 7000 engines, with Chris Cholerton, President for Civil Aerospace at Rolls Royce saying: “We have great confidence we won’t see disruptions on the Trent 7000”.

The move for Virgin Atlantic to choose the Trent 7000s for its engines is a testament to the trust they have in Rolls Royce, despite the issues that the airline has faced over the year with engine issues in their Boeing 787 Dreamliners seeing the aircraft grounded for busy operating periods, with Virgin having to lease additional aircraft to help deal with the distribution.

When asked about the issues the carrier has faced in the past, Shai Weiss said: “We chose A330neo over 787 for this order because they are replacing A330 on a direct basis. We did have problems with RR Trents but have had great success.”

The carrier announced in addition to these aircraft they would also be introducing a new cabin, with the carrier rolling out the new look first on their A350-1000 aircraft.

Weiss said: “We will introduce a new Cabin. Will operate into Heathrow and Gatwick. Our goal is to double in size at LHR when 3rd runway comes online hopefully in 2026 when 350 slots become available.”

Overall, this remains to be a key order for the A330neo, offering further life in its production lifecycle.

However, it still puts the -800neo at a disadvantage, especially as it is yet to secure more orders.