VIRGIN ATLANTIC CEO Steve Ridgeway today revealed that they will soon decide on Boeing 747 and Airbus A340 replacements. Also mentioned was their intention to do away with four-engined aircraft altogether, meaning the possible list of contenders include the Airbus A350, Boeing B787 (of which Virgin already has 15 on order) and the speculated B777x, a B748-esque improvement of the current B777 family.
Additionally worth noting about Ridgeway’s comment on “rapidly moving out of four-engined aircraft”; Virgin Atlantic holds orders for 6 Airbus A380s. Originally due in 2007 at the same time as Singapore Airlines’ initial deliveries, the airline deferred their own. At first citing beneficial pay offs from Airbus to make space for other carrier’s needs as the reason for the delays, Virgin Atlantic’s views on the superjumbo have calmed in recent years. Online sources and press releases have been careful to avoid mentioning EIS dates and any cabin developments are related to the B787s they will receive in 2014.
The UK-based carrier is known for its unique passenger experience and radical departure from traditional long haul carriers, however the airline is struggling to stay ahead of rising costs. Figures reveal that passenger numbers have dwindled since a peak of 5.7 million in 2008 and recently announced a loss of £80.2M for the last year.
Proud to display the slogan “4 engines 4 long haul” on their first A340-600 in 2002, the airline retracted their views when they ordered the twin-engined A330-300 and Boeing 787-9.
It remains to be seen what Steve Ridgeway meant by his four-engine comment, but given Virgin Atlantic’s turbulent history with the A380 and recent financial worries, the future continues to be hazy for Lady Penelope and her Superjumbo.