DALLAS – Today in Aviation, Virgin Atlantic (VS) received its first Airbus A340-600 (G-VSHY), becoming the type’s launch customer in 2002.
When Airbus first unveiled the stretched variant at the 1997 Paris Air Show, VS placed an order for eight, with options on eight more. At the time, the airline’s founder Sir Richard Branson said: “We are pleased to confirm that we’ll be the launch customer for the A340-600. This order represents an endorsement of Airbus and Rolls-Royce who have produced a phenomenal new aircraft and an indication of our growing confidence in the increasing demand for long-haul air travel.”
Flying the Flag
“This new aircraft will also fly the flag for British industry with wings by British Aerospace and Trent 500 engines from Rolls-Royce. September 11 showed how crucial the aviation industry, including the manufacturing sector, is to the British economy and British jobs and I’m sure the A340-600 will be an international success,” he added.
VS would use the type to replace its earlier Boeing 747. However, many of these ‘classics’ were withdrawn from use before the A340s entry-into-service, following the industry downturn after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Indeed, VS even tried to delay the arrival of its first airframes in October 2001. But by February 2002, the deal was back on.
VS configured the airliners in a three-class 311-seat layout. It entered service on August 1, 2002 between London Heathrow (LHR) and New York (JFK). The type was later introduced on the carriers Tokyo (NRT) and Hong Kong (HKG) services.
The A340-600 was retired early by VS due to the effects of the pandemic. Its last commercial flight, VS412 from Lagos (LOS) to LHR, was operated by ‘Dancing Queen’ (G-VFIT), delivered in 2006.