At Farnborough today, Airbus and Virgin Atlantic Airways announced that the airline will acquire up to 13 A350-1000–valued at $4.4 billion list–as part of a plan to feature one of the youngest and environmentally friendly fleets in the globe. Virgin Atlantic has committed to purchasing eight of the planes, with long-term lease from ALC of four more and the option to lease a fifth.

Virgin Atlantic CEO Craig Kreeger described it as a plan to deliver “one of the youngest, cleanest, greenest fleets in the sky.”

Sir Richard Branson, expressed delight with the A350-1000, and says in his blog post that this order marks the begging of a program to modernise the fleet which will replace 50% of the airline’s fleet over the next six years.

Virgin has hyped the announcement up with the promise: ‘The Future. Flying in soon!’

Let’s face it, it is bound to be a delightful way to fly. Virgin Atlantic has a history of delivering on revolutionary passenger experience promises.

High Bar

From setting the first true standard for a Premium Economy cabin, to stylish lounges and in-flight bars–not to underestimate the warm and approachable ‘cool factor’ that the Virgin brand has developed and maintained for decades–Virgin Atlantic rarely disappoints.

New Planes, New Possibilities

Sir Richard Branson states, “The great advantage of having a brand new fleet is having brand new everything, and we’re going to work to deliver an even better experience than we already do. We’re currently undertaking in depth research, including our customers in the process, to ensure the new planes have that Virgin magic, are beautiful inside and deliver on the industry-leading experience we are famous for.”

That is a strong advantage of the A350-1000. It gives airlines even more room to play with in what is already a remarkable aircraft. As we’ve seen with A350-900 in service, even catalog-driven cabin design can result in a delightful passenger experience.

It all comes down to the way Airbus carefully considered the passenger experience features of the plane. With larger windows, lots of lateral and overhead room, large capacity luggage bins and cabin environment enhancements like reduced noise, lower altitude pressure, and programmable mood lighting, this plane is ready to make passengers happy right “out of the box.”

If we look at what Virgin Atlantic did with its Dreamliner aircraft, we can predict high-design customisation for this A350-1000 aircraft.

“This agreement allows Virgin Atlantic to set the standard on its network by being amongst the first airlines into service with the A350-1000, with an Airspace by Airbus cabin, offering superior comfort including industry leading 18″ wide seats in economy,” said Fabrice Brégier, Airbus President and Chief Executive Officer during the announcement at Farnborough today. “These modern, efficient A350s will complement Virgin Atlantic’s existing fleet of 10 A330-300s and offer Virgin Atlantic crews the advantage of familiarity with Airbus operating procedures around the network.”

We already know from Airbus that Virgin’s A350-1000 planes will feature a three class cabin, but this is no big surprise. The airline has remained true to its successful Economy, Premium Economy and Upper Class model all along.

Future Focus

a350-xwb-virgin-fia-2016-03-268
Source: Airbus

Today’s announcement was a tonic to all the recent bummer Brexit talk. This order will not only benefit a UK airline, but also a major UK manufacturer.

The United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron said, “I welcome the news of Virgin Atlantic’s investment. As well as being good news for passengers, it’s great news for jobs in the UK. The fantastic Airbus A350 is built in the UK, with Rolls-Royce engines and suppliers across the country.”

“It’s an investment in the UK itself, and our world-beating aerospace industry,” UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

The airline’s CEO, Craig Kreeger, was equally bullish about the positive competitive and economic impact of introducing the A350-1000 to the Virgin Atlantic fleet.  

“The size of this order demonstrates our absolute focus on investing in the future for our customers and our people, and confirms the strength of our business. The A350-1000 plays a pivotal role in our fleet programme, helping to create one of the youngest, cleanest, greenest fleets in the sky. We’re looking forward to introducing this aircraft to our customers, as its impressive economics, fuel performance, and quiet flying offer an irresistible proposition that makes long haul travel more enjoyable and better for the environment.”

The new A350-1000 is scheduled for delivery early in 2019, and will fly on Virgin Atlantic‘s business and leisure routes around the world first from London Heathrow to boost the airline’s transatlantic service, and later from London Gatwick to Caribbean routes. This aircraft’s range would also lend Virgin Atlantic flexibility to introduce new longer-haul routes should it chose to do so.

a350-xwb-arrival---fia-2016-03-111
Source: Airbus

 

“I can’t wait for the team and our customers to be flying high in our new fleet,” Sir Richard Branson.

Frankly, we can’t wait either! This is one design process to watch closely in the years ahead.

Anyone taking bets on announcements about the A330neo with Airspace by Airbus cabin next?

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