Virgin Atlantic retires Airbus A340 earlier than planned

"A big Virgin Atlantic Thank You" painted on an Airbus A340-600. Photo: © Adam Moreira

Virgin Atlantic has retired its remaining Airbus A340 fleet on Monday. The retirement of the last three airplanes was previously planned for the end of May.

Originally, the aircraft type was set to be retired in 2019, but had its schedules extended several times due to the ongoing issues with Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines that power the airline’s Boeing 787-9 fleet. Now, it was withdrawn from service over two months earlier, likely because of Coronavirus, which has caused a significant drop in demand, affecting airlines around the world.

The final commercial flight was flight VS412 from Lagos, Nigeria to London Heathrow. The flight was operated by G-VFIT, which was first delivered to Virgin in May 2006.

Virgin Atlantic first received the Airbus A340-300 in 1993, which operated alongside the Boeing 747-400 for most of its career. The -300 model was retired by Virgin in April of 2015. In 2002, the airline received its first of 19 A340-600, which offered increased capacity and efficiency over the ageing -300 model, whilst also complementing the Boeing 747-400s.

Older aircraft in Virgin’s fleet are being replaced through its fleet modernisation, with an order for 14 A330-900neo, and 12 A350-1000, of which four are now in service. The former will replace Virgin’s 14 Airbus A330ceo aircraft (four -200, ten -300 variants). The remaining seven Boeing 747-400 aircraft will be phased out in 2021 as more of the A350-1000 deliveries get fulfilled. Virgin also operates 17 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

Virgin Atlantic A340-600 in their signature silver and red livery were a famous and welcome sight at London’s Heathrow Airport, as the hub is dominantly served by British Airways and its long haul fleet of mostly 747-400, 777 and 787 aircraft. Virgin was among the very few Airbus A340 operators at Heathrow.