Virgin Atlantic Airways has reportedly placed an order for 12 Airbus A350-100 widebody airliners valued at $4.3 billion.
According to Bloomberg’s Karl Lundgren and Andrea Rothman, the new Airbus jets will be used to replace the airline’s Boeing 747-400 jumbo jets in its leisure fleet.
People with knowledge of the plan told Bloomberg that nine of the jets will be purchased directly from Airbus while three the aircraft will be leased.
Virgin Atlantic’s leisure fleet operates primarily out of London Gatwick Airport and serves the airline’s tourist-heavy destinations such as Orlando and Las Vegas.
Last year, Virgin Atlantic CEO Craig Kreeger told Business Insider that the jumbo’s good per-seat cost will allow the airline to keeping the 747 leisure fleet for a few more years.
Even though low fuel prices have given the ageing, four-engined jumbos a temporary reprieve, Airlines such as Richard Branson’s flagship carrier are working on an exit plan for the planes.
Delta Air Lines, which hold a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic, ordered 25 of the smaller A350-900 jets last year to replace its fleet of 747-400s.
The Airbus A350-1000 is the largest of the aeroplane maker’s A350 line of twin-engined, widebody, longhaul airliners. Although the — 1000 can seat up to 440 passengers, most airlines will opt for the three-class layout and a maximum of 379 passengers. The A350-1000 is powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce Trent XWB turbofan engines with a max range of 9,100 miles.
The A350-1000 is expected to enter service in 2017. It is unclear when Virgin Atlantic will take delivery of its order.
We have reached out to Virgin Atlantic and Airbus Industries for comment.