Virgin Atlantic Airways today confirmed that it will be the launch customer of the new Airbus A340-600 with the first aircraft entering service in June 2002.
Four aircraft will be delivered between June and October with a further six entering service by 2006. The total order is worth approximately $1.9 billion. The A340-600 will seat 319 passengers with 50 Upper Class seats, 28 in Premium Economy and 241 in Economy. This represents a 25% increase in capacity per aircraft compared to the airline’s current A340-300 fleet, which will be replaced by the new aircraft.
Commenting on the forthcoming delivery Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic, 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.
“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.”
The new aircraft has cockpit commonality with the current A340, which reduces flight deck retraining and provides the airline with increased revenue potential through higher capacity and reduced seat mile costs. The A340-600 has a range of 7,300 nm/13,500 km and will be deployed on routes with growing passenger demand such as the US West Coast and the Far East.
John Leahy, Chief Commercial Officer for Airbus commented:
“Sir Richard Branson has a well known reputation for innovative marketing so we are particularly pleased that Virgin Atlantic has selected the A340-600 as its latest flagship for demanding long-haul routes.
“Airbus A340-aircraft are the market leader in long-haul travel where four-engine aircraft are demanded by passengers and pilots alike. And don’ t forget: it is superbly quiet and sets new standards in environmental friendliness.”
John Cheffins, Chief Operating Officer, Rolls-Royce, said:
“We are delighted to have this opportunity to launch the Trent 500 into service with Virgin Atlantic. The event will not only re-energise our industry, but will also be a proud occasion for British enterprise and engineering. If the results of our joint development programme with Airbus are any guide, the A340-600 and the Trent 500 represents a combination which will fully meet the high expectations of Virgin Atlantic and its passengers.”
“Today’s announcement coupled with last week’s announcing frequency increases this summer is a tribute to everyone at Virgin Atlantic who has helped the company come through the challenges of the last few months.
“These new aircraft will ensure Virgin operates the youngest fleet of aircraft across the North Atlantic, all of which are equipped with our award winning new seats. We only fly four engine aircraft on intercontinental routes. This costs us more than other airlines, but we know from talking to passengers that it increases their confidence.
“Although we need to maintain a tight control on our costs we can look to the future with increasing confidence. We are now in a position to expand and exploit new opportunities in the months ahead.”