Virgin Atlantic Airways today announced that it has reached an agreement to take delivery of 13 new A340-600 aircraft with options for a further 13. In total the deal is worth in excess of $5.5bn. Each aircraft will be equipped with four Rolls Royce Trent 500 engines and deliveries will take place between 2006-08.
Commenting on the deal, Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of the airline, said:
“The Airbus A340-600 is a phenomenal aircraft and Airbus produced a very competitive deal. This is by some way the biggest aircraft order in Virgin Atlantic’s history and will enable us to double the size of the airline over the next five years.
“Our current fleet of 29 aircraft is already younger than those of our competitors. Together with existing orders for A340-600s and A380s we now have 24 firm orders with options for 19 more aircraft. These aircraft will allow us to add two or three more routes per year as well as expand capacity to existing destinations.
“This order is also great news for British industry with around half the aircraft being built in the UK - engines in Derby and wings at Broughton.
“These new aircraft will enable us to increase the number of passengers we fly each year from four million to eight million. To do so we will be adding capacity around our existing network like the US, China, Japan, India, the Caribbean and Africa. In addition, we’ll be adding lots of new destinations - our current wish list includes Melbourne, Dubai, Bangkok, Mumbai, Chicago, Toronto, Jamaica, Nairobi and Rio!”
No‘l Forgeard, President and CEO of Airbus said:
“I’m delighted about Virgin’s decision to expand its fleet with the A340-600. It is the most advanced and innovative aircraft in its category and as Virgin shares Airbus’ taste for innovation and excellence, I know that Virgin Atlantic is taking full advantage of the A340-600’s great potential.”
Charles Cuddington, Managing Director Airline Business at Rolls-Royce,
“We’re delighted to be extending our relationship with Virgin Atlantic
Airways through this repeat order involving more than 100 engines. Virgin Atlantic is known as a ground-breaker, and that record includes its role as launch customer for our Trent 500 engine. Having recently celebrated the second anniversary of that entry into service, today’s events provide a reason for double celebrations.”
Virgin Atlantic operates one of the world’s youngest fleets of aircraft. The fleet comprises of 29 aircraft, thirteen Boeing 747-400s, nine Airbus A340-300s and seven A340-600s. The current average age of the fleet is five years and seven months.
The new A340-600 entered service with launch customer Virgin Atlantic in July 2002. The inaugural flight took place at the 2002 Farnborough Air Show. The -600 series retains the same fuselage cross section as the -300, but is some 11.6m longer, at 75.3m making it the longest civil aircraft in the world. The A340-600 is designed to fly over 7250 nm with a full payload of passengers and is currently configured with 306 seats in the Virgin Atlantic three class layout. The aircraft is powered by four Rolls Royce Trent 500 engines each delivering 56,000lb of thrust. The aircraft is almost precisely 50% British built. The engines are built by Rolls Royce in Derby and the wings manufactured by Airbus-UK, Broughton. The final assembly takes place at Toulouse.
Richard Branson added:
“Airbus offered us a terrific deal in all respects. We took a range of factors into account, one of which is the preference of some of our passengers to travel on four engined aircraft rather than twin engined.
“Our route network currently stands at 22 with new routes to Sydney, Cuba and The Bahamas to come over the next year. Beyond that we plan to aggressively grow the airline. As well as expanding on key business routes out of Heathrow, we aim to build on Virgin Holiday’s huge success in the leisure market by adding significant capacity out of Gatwick and Manchester.”