Virgin Atlantic Airways announced today that it signed a $2.1 billion firm contract to buy six Airbus A330-300s and lease another four from Netherlands-based lessor AerCap. The airline said it has financed all 10 deliveries via AerCap.
The airline plans to take delivery of the first five airplanes in 2011 and the balance of the order in 2012, ahead of the planned first delivery of Virgin Atlantic’s initial Boeing 787-9. It has placed a firm order for 15 of the Boeing types, but wants interim capacity in the form of the twin-engine Airbuses, which, Virgin said, use nearly 10 percent less fuel than the A340-300s it now operates.
Virgin’s A330-300s can seat up to 270 in the airline’s “Upper Class,” “Premium Economy” and economy sections, and allow Virgin to offer “enhanced” services from the UK to the U.S. and the Caribbean. They will also help accommodate future growth, as Virgin Atlantic looks to fly to new destinations–such as Beijing, Cancun and Vancouver–from London.
Still in the process of selecting the engines to power the A330-300s from among General Electric, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce, Virgin Atlantic said it would announce its powerplant decision this summer.
Each of the A330-300s will come equipped with lighter and more comfortable next-generation seats, from where each passenger will have access to a new entertainment hub, including USB ports and power sockets in Upper Class and Premium Economy cabins. All Virgin Atlantic travelers will also be able to send and receive e-mails and texts on their BlackBerrys, handheld PDAs and other mobile devices.
“Virgin Atlantic has a strong history of successfully investing during a downturn and our Airbus order today sends a strong signal that now is the time to invest, in order to help protect jobs and get the world’s economy moving again,” said Virgin Atlantic CEO Steve Ridgway.
Virgin Atlantic Airways became an Airbus operator in November 1993 with delivery of its first four-engine A340-300. The airline now operates six A340-300s and 19 A340-600s, along with 13 Boeing 747-400s in three different cabin layouts. Virgin has also placed an order for six A380s.