Virgin Atlantic Follows Delta & Orders The A330-900neo


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Delta owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic so it wasn’t a big surprise when the airline used the Paris airshow to announce that it would be buying up to 20 of Airbus’ new A330-900neo aircraft.

Delta and Virgin Atlantic have been growing closer and closer since the US carrier bought a controlling stake in Virgin back in 2012 so, with both airlines often saying that they’re looking to offer passengers a similar experience regardless which carrier they fly with, it was only a matter of time before Virgin Atlantic followed Delta’s lead and chose the Airbus A330-900neo to replace part of its aging fleet.

Virgin Atlantic A330-900neo – What You Need To Know

  • Virgin Atlantic has made a firm order for 14 A330-900neo aircraft (8 to be purchased outright and 6 to be leased).
  • Virgin Atlantic has options in place for a further 6 Airbus A330-900neos
  • The firm order for 14 aircraft will see the new A330-900neos replacing Virgin Atlantic’s existing 14 Airbus A330 aircraft on a 1 for 1 basis.
  • The first aircraft will be delivered in 2021 with the full roll out taking place between 2021 and 2024.
  • The new A330-900neos will continue to offer Upper Class (Business Class), Premium Economy, Economy Delight, and regular Economy Class seating.
  • Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, has said that the A330-900s will offer a new interior but it’s not yet clear if that means a brand new interior or the new interior we’ll be seeing rolled out when the Airbus A350’s are delivered to Virgin Atlantic this summer.
Virgin Atlantic New Upper Class debuting on the Airbus A350 from this summer

Thoughts

With Virgin Atlantic expecting the delivery of the first (of 12) Airbus A350-1000 aircraft this summer and now placing an order for 14 Airbus A330-900s, the airline now has firm orders in place to replace 26 of the 40 long-haul aircraft in its fleet.

By the end of 2024 the average age of the aircraft in the Virgin Atlantic fleet will be just 5.3 years…and that’s impressive.

From the airline’s perspective a 32% improvement in fuel efficiency (between 2014 by 2024) will be a major cost saver but it’s from the premium cabin passenger standpoint that things are most interesting.

Right now Virgin Atlantic offers one of the worst transatlantic widebody Business Class cabins around with horrible horsebox-like seats which offer very little privacy (I’m not a fan of staring at my fellow passengers across the aisle) but, by 2024, those seats should be consigned to history.

The incoming A350s will have the new Upper Class suite which was unveiled in April,…

Image courtesy of Virgin Atlantic

…the existing 787 Dreamliners will be getting their own new Upper Class suite from “the early 2020s” (it won’t be the same as the suite on the A350s) and now we have the new Airbus A330-900s coming in 2021 which will also have a new Upper Class cabin.

That should see the whole Virgin Atlantic fleet offering a vastly improved Business Class cabin within 5 years – that’s a big win if you travel in Virgin’s frontmost cabin.

The news is probably going to be less good the further back you travel inside the aircraft.

The Premium Economy cabin Virgin Atlantic has announced for the A350 offers considerably narrower seats than you’ll find in the Premium Economy cabin on any other Virgin Atlantic aircraft and it’s probably fair to assume that a similar cabin will appear in the A330-900.

That’s a big step back.

Virgin Atlantic A330 Premium Economy

It’s hard for Virgin Atlantic (or most other airlines) to make long-haul Economy class cabins any less comfortable than they are now so, as long as no one at Virgin thinks that 30″ of legroom is a good idea, there probably won’t be much difference between today’s Virgin Atlantic Economy Class cabins and those we’ll see in the A330-900s.

Bottom Line

In 5 years time the average age of a Virgin Atlantic aircraft will be just 5.3 years so that bodes very well for the airline’s profitability (fuel cost) and for the airline’s impact on the environment (emissions should be a lot lower than they are now).

From a passenger point of view the arrival of the A330-900s will help speed up the exit of the current Upper Class cabin (that can’t come quickly enough) but, at the same time, will probably see the Premium Economy Class cabin get worse.

What Virgin Atlantic gives with one hand it will probably take with the other 🙂