Category Archives: Virgin Atlantic Airways

Virgin Atlantic announces its first Airbus A350-1000 route

 

Virgin Atlantic Airways has opened reservations for its first Airbus A350-1000 route.

According to Airline Route, the carrier will introduce the new type on September 10, 2019 between London (Heathrow) and New York (JFK).

Initially the A350 will operate six days a week on the route.

Image: Airbus.

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European Commission approves of the acquisition of Flybe by Connect Airways

Flyby's last and soon to be short-lived livery

The European Commission has issued this decision:

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of UK regional air carrier Flybe by Connect Airways, a consortium by Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Aviation and Cyrus. The decision is conditional on full compliance with commitments offered by Connect Airways.

This decision concerns the proposed acquisition by Connect Airways of (i) Flybe, (ii) Propius Holdings Ltd (“Propius”, Stobart Aviation’s aircraft leasing business) and (iii) Stobart Air Unlimited Company (“Stobart Air”, Stobart Aviation’s operating airline business).

Connect Airways is a consortium founded by Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Aviation and Cyrus. Through the consortium, the three companies will jointly control Flybe, Propius and Stobart Air following the merger.

The Commission’s merger investigation

The Commission investigated the impact of the proposed transaction on the market for air transport of passengers on routes from British airports to other European airports as well as some intra-UK routes.

The Commission’s investigation found that the transaction, as initially notified, would have led to quasi-monopolies on two direct European routes, namely Birmingham – Amsterdam and Birmingham – Paris.

This quasi-monopoly situation would result from Air France-KLM acquiring indirect control over Flybe, via its joint control over Virgin Atlantic. The Commission approved the joint acquisition of Virgin Atlantic by Air France-KLM, Delta and Virgin group in February 2019. The Commission also noted that entry of competitors into these routes would be difficult, considering that both Amsterdam Schiphol and Paris Charles de Gaulle airports are very congested airports.

The Commission also investigated the effects of the transaction on several other markets, such as passenger air transport to/from Amsterdam Schiphol airport, cargo air transport services, ground-handling services or airport infrastructure services but did not find competition concerns in any of these.

The proposed remedies

To address the competition concerns identified by the Commission with regard to the Birmingham – Amsterdam and Birmingham – Paris routes, Connect Airways offered a set of commitments.

Connect Airways committed to the release of five daily slot pairs at Amsterdam Schiphol airport and three daily slot pairs at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. Under the proposed commitments, these slots will be released to competing airlines that want to fly the Birmingham – Amsterdam and Birmingham – Paris routes.

The commitments fully address the competition concerns identified by the Commission regarding Connect Airways’ acquisition of Flybe. The Commission therefore concluded that the proposed transaction, as modified by the final commitments, would no longer raise competition concerns. This decision is conditional upon full compliance with the commitments.

The Commission’s derogation decision of February 21, 2019

Under the EU Merger Regulation, companies have the obligation not to implement a notifiable transaction before it has been declared compatible with the common market (Article 7(1) of the EU Merger Regulation). This serves to avoid that competition could be harmed beyond repair before the Commission has taken its decision. At the same time, EU merger rules enable the Commission to give a temporary approval for certain parts of a transaction (on the basis of Article 7(3) of the Merger Regulation) in a way that does not harm effective competition, and in order to avoid negative effects for consumers.

On 21 February 2019, the Commission granted Connect Airways such a derogation. As a result, Connect Airways was allowed to acquire Flybe’s shares prior to the merger clearance, subject to strict conditions, in particular related to voting rights. The derogation decision helped prevent flight cancellations to the detriment of consumers and helped avoid staff layoffs, while the merger review was ongoing.

Companies and products

Flybe, based in the UK, is a British regional airline with a focus on short-haul, point-to-point flights. It currently operates 190 routes serving 12 countries from 73 departure points in the United Kingdom and other European countries.

Cyrus, based in the US, is an investment adviser and an investor in public and private airlines.

Stobart Group, based in Guernsey, is active in aviation and infrastructure markets, including (i) operating regional airline Stobart Air and (ii) developing London Southend Airport.

Virgin Atlantic, is the ultimate holding company of international passenger airline Virgin Atlantic Airways and international tour operator Virgin Holidays. Virgin Atlantic is currently controlled by Virgin Group and Delta Air Lines. On 12 February 2019, the Commission cleared unconditionally the proposed acquisition of joint control by Virgin Group, Delta Air Lines and Air France-KLM over Virgin Atlantic.

Air France-KLM, based in France, is the holding company of Air France, the French national carrier airline and KLM, the Dutch national carrier airline. The company provides passenger air transport services, cargo air transport services and maintenance, repair and overhaul services.

Connect Airways issued this statement:

Connect Airways Limited (Connect Airways) has received merger control clearance from the European Commission for its acquisition of Flybe Limited (Flybe), Propius Holdings Ltd (Propius), and its investment in Stobart Air Unlimited Company (Stobart Air), securing Flybe’s long-term future and providing more choice for customers across the UK.

With Connect Airways taking over full management control of the business, Mark Anderson (CEO, Connect Airways) and with the leadership teams from Flybe and Stobart Air will now focus on plans to grow Flybe’s regional network, as well as expanding Stobart Air’s successful franchise business.

Connect Airways will offer significant benefits for customers:

  • A foundation to secure Flybe’s long-term future, building on the strong financial backing and expertise of  Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group and Cyrus
  • More choice for customers through improved connectivity between UK regional airports and Virgin Atlantic’s extensive long-haul network, particularly at London Heathrow and Manchester Airports
  • An enhanced customer experience in line with the Virgin brand, which Connect Airways will use in due course
  • A leading franchise-flying business, via its investment in Stobart Air’s market-leading proposition

Work is also underway to develop an exciting new brand and customer proposition, which will be announced in due course.

Top Copyright Photo: This will be Flybe’s last livery which was very limited and now short-lived. Flybe (British European 2nd) Bombardier DHC-8-402 (Q400) G-JECP (msn 4136) SOU (Antony J. Best). Image: 946881.

Flybe aircraft slide show:

 

Virgin Atlantic showcases its first Airbus A350-1000 – the painting of G-VPOP

From the Virgin Atlantic blog:

By Dave Gunner.

G-VPOP, or Mamma Mia, had entered Hangar C33, 20 days ago with a patchwork of green, beige and white primers covering its primarily composite material fuselage, and emerged in our iconic red and silver colour scheme.

There’s an awful lot of science involved in painting an aircraft. The paint must be hard wearing but also flexible to cope with the loads on the aircraft structure. It needs to withstand huge swings in temperature, from minus 55 degrees Celsius at cruise altitude to 40 degrees on the ground in hot climates. It also protects the aircraft structure from harsh UV light in the upper atmosphere. And, of course, the livery is the most visible representation of our brand, so it needs to look amazing.

It costs a considerable amount of money to paint an aircraft, so the pressure is on to get it exactly right. And being Virgin Atlantic, we’ll add to that pressure by insisting on using some of the most technically challenging paint to apply. Overseeing the whole paint process is camera-shy senior design engineer Dave Napper, and design and development engineer Sam Hamdan. They work with Paul Reilly, one of our aircraft assets managers responsible for the delivery of our A350 fleet. I caught up with them to discover more about the process and soon felt like I was in the middle of a particularly intense but fascinating science lesson. Here’s what I learned:

Before the aircraft went in to be painted, both our design team and the A350 project team had been working for months with the Airbus Livery Design Office. The process involves 3D modelling to make sure the livery meets all safety requirements and regulations, and that everything lines up perfectly.

Just a couple of the hundreds of decals. Sam Hamdan peforms the final inspection before accepting the paint job on G-VPOP..

When the aircraft enters the paint hangar, it is prepped for painting and then it will take about 20 Airbus specialists around eight days to apply the paint. Only certain areas can be customised: the fuselage, winglets, tailfin (or vertical stabiliser) and engine nacelles. The remaining areas (including the “Mask of Zorro”) are standardised across all airlines.

The material used to mask the paint isn’t plain paper. It’s a very specialised plastic that allows the solvents to evaporate but doesn’t allow the paint to pass through it.

What makes our aircraft really stand out is the use of an extraordinary paint called Andaro, which is applied in red onto our wingtips, engine covers and vertical tail plane, and in aubergine for the letters of our logo. This highly reflective paint is unique to us in the airline world, and it looks absolutely gorgeous, especially in the sun.

As the old saying goes, ‘If it were easy, everyone would do it’. Andaro paint takes some serious skill to get right, which is why the team at the Airbus Paint Centre have been practising the application on test panels for several months ahead of the first aircraft arriving in the shop. The right colour is reached by stacking a tinted lacquer on a metallic (salmon coloured) base. Any overspray results in a darker colour red. Getting a consistent finish of precisely the right shade, when applied by a team of sprayers working across different panels, is incredibly skilled work.

The Andaro topcoat colour is based on nano pigment technology. Nanopigments are insoluble crystals with a maximum diameter of 10 to 80 nanometers. A nanometer is one thousand-millionth of a meter. A human hair is around 80,000 nm thick!

Emerging for the first time. G-VPOP, Mamma Mia

If you were to open a tin of the Andaro red paint, it would look clear. The concept was developed using the red nano pigment on top of a mirror as the product is translucent. Light is reflected back, which gives it the iridescent qualities in bright sunlight.

The Andaro name only refers to the red and aubergine components in the livery. The dominant livery colour is silver, which gets its sparkle from a mica layer containing tiny particles of ceramic.

Applying the Virgin Atlantic livery

First glimpse of the finished A350. The Mica and Andaro looking gorgeous in Hangar C33 at the Airbus paint shop in Toulouse.

The paint is applied in six layers, with the first three at the manufacturing stage:

  • A basic primer which is soft and sticky. The job of the primer is to aid the adhesion of the other coats. It also starts the process of smoothing out the contours of the composite weave.
  • A chromate-free primer which sticks to the basic primer and is slightly firmer
  • An intermediate coat or the ‘selectivity strippable barrier’ coat. This is the beige coat on the aircraft when it goes into the hangar. As well as now being completely hard, any paint on top of this coat can be stripped to allow for new topcoats and liveries to be applied.

The next three layers are applied in the paint shop:

  • The Basecoat. This is where the magic starts. This coat will either be silver, for the main fuselage, or a salmon pink colour for the red bits (engine covers, wing tips and tailfin).
  • Now for the real colour. The red and aubergine Andaro, and the silver Mica Coat. The Andaro layer can take three to four coats of paint.
  • The Clear Coat. Like a top coat of nail varnish, this is the finishing touch which protects the paint and gives the aircraft that lovely polished look.

The temperature and humidity in the hangar have a significant impact on the process. Paint shops in hotter climates use different paint mixtures.

The finishing touch to the livery, the application of our famous ‘flying icon’ on the nose of the aircraft, will take place once G-VPOP arrives into London.

Count the decals.The door with its high contrast ‘door band’ and the outboard side of the left engine with its giant Rolls Royce sticker.

Finally, hundreds of little warning signs and markings are imprinted all over the aircraft. A lot of these are mandatory, and they’re applied in a mixture of decals and stencils depending on their position. Many are safety critical and have to meet stringent regulations for things like the contrast with their background colour. An example of this is on the doors, where there are ‘door bands’ to highlight their location.

The “V” letter on the side of the aircraft is 144″ high (3.66 metres) tall. The total length of the Virgin Atlantic logo is 1350″ (34.3m)

At more than 26 inches tall, the Rolls Royce stickers on the huge Trent XWB engines are the largest ones in the sky.

Teamwork. Paul and Sam (orange hi-viz) with the Airbus paint team

Before our engineers accept the aircraft from Airbus, they undertake a thorough inspection of the paint. This takes at least four hours and is done using the customer acceptance criteria of the Airbus paint guidelines and technical drawings. Sam did the inspection for the first aircraft. He will have checked the gloss levels using a photometer and carefully checked the whole aircraft for paint runs, fisheyes*, microbubbles, peeling and overspray. We’re pleased to say it passed with … ahem… flying colours!

The end result speaks for itself. Our new A350 looks incredible. G-VPOP will soon be setting off on her travels around the world, and her gorgeous new paint job will no doubt feature as the backdrop for countless ‘off on our holiday’ snaps for many years to come.


*Fisheyes are when the paint reacts and moves away creating a spot with a darker ring around it, like they eye of a fish.

 

Virgin Atlantic selects A330neo for its fleet renewal and expansion

Virgin Atlantic has selected 14 A330-900s to replace its A330ceos from 2021, with options to further expand its fleet of highly efficient wide-body aircraft. The firm order for eight aircraft and six additional on lease from Air Lease Corporation, was signed at the Paris Air Show by Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic CEO and Guillaume Faury, Airbus CEO.

Virgin Atlantic currently operates a fleet of 40 wide-body aircraft and will soon take delivery of its first of 12 A350-1000s. This latest order for A330neos is a further commitment by Virgin Atlantic to continue modernising its fleet with aircraft offering the highest standards of fuel efficiency and noise reduction alongside the best in class cabin comfort.

The A330neo Family is the new generation A330, comprising two versions: the A330-800 and A330-900 sharing 99 percent commonality. It builds on the proven economics, versatility and reliability of the A330 Family, while reducing fuel consumption by about 25 percent per seat versus previous generation competitors and increasing range by up to 1,500 nm compared to the majority of A330s in operation.

The A330neo is powered by Rolls-Royce’s latest-generation Trent 7000 engines and features a new wing with increased span and new A350 XWB-inspired Sharklets. The cabin provides the comfort of the new Airspace amenities including state-of-the-art passenger inflight entertainment and Wifi connectivity systems.

Image: Airbus.

Virgin Atlantic to retire its last Boeing 747-400 in 2021

Virgin Atlantic Airways Boeing 747-41R G-VROC (msn 32746)  LHR (SPA). Image: 924415.

While Virgin Atlantic Airways unveiled its new cabins for the new Airbus A350-1000s, it also confirmed the delivery schedule for its remaining eight 455-seat Boeing 747-400s.

Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss stated Virgin Atlantic would soon begin to retire its Boeing 747-400s this year. By 2021, all eight remaining 747s will be retired and replaced with the new Airbus A350-1000s.

Top Copyright Photo (all others by the airline): Virgin Atlantic Airways Boeing 747-41R G-VROC (msn 32746) LHR (SPA). Image: 924415.

Virgin Atlantic Airways aircraft slide show:

Videos:

 

Virgin Atlantic’s new Airbus A350-1000 including “The Loft”

By Dave Gunner.

Virgin Atlantic has given us a peak preview of its new Airbus A350-1000 on its blog:

Ahead of the delivery of our first A350 aircraft, we’ve been showcasing our gorgeous new cabin interiors to an audience of VIPs. It was a special night at our West Sussex base, attended by journalists, leaders from the travel industry and some of our most valued customers, alongside representatives from Airbus and Rolls Royce. They all enjoyed a tour of our new Airbus A350 experience which included VR and augmented reality displays, talks by the design team and even the opportunity to try their hand at opening our A350 training door. There was also a pop-up Clubhouse supplying food and drink and a spa as well as speeches from our CEO Shai Weiss and EVP Customer Mark Anderson. It was a great night and a fitting celebration of our new aircraft.

There are new  planes and  then there are  Virgin Atlantic new planes.

Here’s everything you need to know about our A350, the designs, the cabins and some of the people that made the magic happen.


Introducing The Loft

The Loft is a unique space for Upper Class customers to gather, chat, grab a drink or dine with friends. As well as enjoying luxe comfort and high end finishes, you can settle in with Bluetooth headphones and catch a show or watch the live tailcam.

  • The Loft is the largest social space of any business class cabin at Virgin Atlantic. The space features a 32-inch touchscreen monitor and eight Bluetooth audio jacks so you can view content together. This is the first time we’ve offered Bluetooth in the social space.
  • It provides space for eight customers – twice the capacity of the existing social spaces on board (five seated three standing).
  • All of the chairs in The Loft feature seatbelts, a new feature for Virgin Atlantic, which means you can even continue to occupy The Loft during turbulence.
  • The Loft was designed collaboratively by Virgin Atlantic and London based Factory Design, and is manufactured by AIM Altitude in Bournemouth

Introducing the A350 Upper Class suite – experience the evolution

The new Upper Class suite is the perfect retreat at 30,000 feet. Every seat faces towards the window and comes with enhanced privacy, plenty of space and storage, adjustable mood lighting, and an 18.5 inch screen – all with inimitable Virgin Atlantic style.

  • The dreamiest, comfiest flying experience
  • The brand new Upper Class suite has been exclusively designed for Virgin Atlantic in collaboration with our in-house design team
  • Each aircraft offers 44 Upper Class suites in a 1-2-1 configuration
  • The stylish suite features luxurious Claret leather with intricate, signature Virgin red stitching
  • You can relax into a 44 inch seat pitch or recline into a fully flat bed
  • Each suite features a cocktail table, shelving and a larger tray table to store personal items
  • More privacy
  • The cabin offers greater levels of privacy with higher walls around each suite and deployable privacy screens
  • The 1-2- 1 configuration offers flexibility for leisure and business travellers to fly together
  • Each Upper Class suite will offer our largest ever inflight entertainment screen at 18.5 inches
  • For the first time customers can connect to the inflight entertainment via Bluetooth and enjoy wireless freedom on board. All Upper Class suites feature two USB sockets, and an AC socket adaptable for UK, US and EU plugs

A350 Premium – luxe leather seats and Premium perks

Rich, custom leather seats and high end finishes welcome you into the Premium cabin of the A350. You can enjoy a lot more storage for all your belongings and a generous 13.3 inch screen for the next generation entertainment system. Tailored for Virgin Atlantic, our Premium seat features a luxurious Claret leather seat with intricate stitch detailing, a pressed black wool cocktail tray and meal table, and an Oxblood red upper literature pocket interior.

  • Four-way adjustable leather headrest
  • 56 seats offering a generous 7 inch recline
  • Full size bi-fold table
  • More areas and pockets for storage including a side amenity pocket, as well as upper and lower seatback stowage
  • USB ports
  • 18.5 inch seat width
  • 13.3 inch seatback screens – the biggest ever in Premium
  • Intuitive new entertainment system, controllable by personal devices

A350 Economy – bespoke design for ultimate comfort

Our newest Economy seats are designed with bespoke woven fabrics inspired by fashion houses. Six-way adjustable headrests ensure comfort, and the 11.6 inch seatback screens with our next generation entertainment system are worth settling in for.

  • 235 seats in a 3-3-3 configuration
  • New upgraded seats in luxury woven fabrics and high quality wool blend
  • 11.6 inch seatback screens
  • Intuitive new entertainment system, controllable by personal devices
  • USB ports in every seat
  • Up to 17.4 inch seat width
  • 31 inch Classic and Light seat pitch
  • 34 inch Economy Delight seat pitch

A350 fleet information

In total, Virgin Atlantic will take delivery of 12 A350-1000 aircraft between 2019 and 2021, in an order worth $4.4bn (list price). The first four aircraft will be delivered in summer/autumn 2019, and further names and registrations will be revealed in due course.

The configuration
  • 44 seats in Upper Class
  • 56 seats in Premium
  • 235 seats in Economy
Routes

Our new aircraft will fly from both London Heathrow and London Gatwick, with initial flights operating between London Heathrow and New York JFK and Atlanta

Typical operating characteristics
  • The Airbus A350-1000 has a range up to 7950 nautical miles
  • Overall length – 72.25m (237ft 0.5in)
  • Wing Span – 64.75m (212ft 5.2in)
  • Height – 17.08m (56ft 0.3in)
  • Cargo capacity of 208.2m3, (7352 cubic feet)
  • Maximum take-off weight of 308,000kg
  • Typical cruising speed of M0.85
Additional customer benefits of the Airbus A350-1000
  • Larger panoramic windows
  • Spacious feel thanks to the illuminated dome ceiling design
  • Cleaner air with an advanced filtration system
  • Calmer cabin with quieter engines and air conditioning
  • Improved cabin atmosphere with lower cabin altitude
  • Improved storage with larger overhead bins

Delta, Virgin Atlantic to serve London-Gatwick from Boston and New York-JFK in 2020

Delta Air Lines has made this announcement:

  • Trans-Atlantic partners Delta and Virgin Atlantic offer up to 18 flights daily to the U.K. from Boston and New York
  • Delta also to deploy fully modernized Boeing 767-400s on all flights between London-Heathrow and Boston and New York-JFK this fall

Delta Air Lines is building on its position as the leading global carrier in Boston and New York with the launch of two new international routes – nonstop service from Boston’s Logan International Airport and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to London’s Gatwick Airport will begin next summer in partnership with Virgin Atlantic.

London-Gatwick will be the eighth nonstop trans-Atlantic destination from Boston on Delta and its partners, who together offer up to 13 daily flights between Boston and Europe. In New York, the additional flight adds to Delta and Virgin’s combined eight daily flights to London-Heathrow – and three additional daily flights to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester – from Delta’s JFK hub.

Delta and its joint venture partners together offer their customers the most transatlantic flights and seats out of the northeast United States.

Full Gatwick schedule details will be announced later this year. The London-area airport was the destination for Delta’s very first transatlantic flight more than 40 years ago, when service began from Atlanta.

Upgraded aircraft on flights to London-Heathrow from Boston and JFK

Delta is also enhancing its aircraft on all flights between London-Heathrow and both Boston and JFK. Beginning this week, Delta flights between Boston and London-Heathrow will operate on an Airbus A330-200, which already serves Delta’s JFK-Heathrow flights and features additional premium seats. And in November 2019, the airline will introduce on these routes fully refurbished Boeing 767-400s, featuring a modern interior and all four branded seat products – including a more private Delta One experience, Delta Premium Select, Delta Comfort+ and Main Cabin – to give customers greater choice when they travel. Delta’s refreshed 764-400 aircraft will also feature the new wireless IFE system developed by Delta Flight Products with seat-back entertainment screens in every cabin and thoughtful touches like full-spectrum LED ambient lighting and memory foam cushions throughout the aircraft for added comfort.

Additional service to Paris, Tel Aviv and Amsterdam from JFK

In addition to the new Gatwick service, Delta’s existing transatlantic offerings also continue to grow. The airline this summer will add a second daily flight from JFK to Tel Aviv and a second daily flight from JFK to Paris, along with a third daily frequency from JFK to Amsterdam that will begin in October 2019 and operate four times per week. The Tel Aviv and Paris flights will be served by Airbus A330-300 aircraft; the Amsterdam service will operate on a Boeing 767-300ER.

An unmatched global network in Boston

Delta is Boston’s fastest-growing carrier by daily departures and this spring, the airline and its partners will offer the most international seats from Boston with new and expanded services to up to 19 international destinations, including:

  • ​New Delta-operated seasonal service to Lisbon and Edinburgh, launching May 23
  • An additional Amsterdam flight by partner KLM, which launched March 31
  • A daytime London-Heathrow flight operated by partner Virgin Atlantic, launched April 1
  • New nonstop Seoul-Incheon service operated by partner Korean Air, launching April 12

Delta has doubled domestic daily departures out of Boston since 2013 and this year will serve four additional domestic destinations – Cleveland, Chicago, Washington-Reagan, and Newark-Liberty – while also adding more frequencies in another seven key domestic markets.

“Delta and its partners offer an unmatched global network that’s capable of taking Boston customers to more worldwide destinations than ever before,” said Joe Esposito, Delta’s Senior Vice President – Network Planning. “We’re offering up to 149 daily departures to more than 50 destinations from Logan in 2019, an increase of nearly 30 daily departures over 2018. Our investment in Boston at the airport and in the community only continues to deepen.”

Delta CEO Ed Bastian visited Boston in March 2019 and announced the airline’s plans to assume operations at all gates at Logan’s Terminal A by the third quarter of 2019, growing Delta’s airport footprint by five gates. Delta also plans by 2020 the expansion of its Delta Sky Club near gate A18, including new showers, expanded seating and a reimagined food and beverage area.

Delta is New York’s largest carrier and operates more than 200 peak-day departures to more than 80 destinations worldwide from its JFK hub. The airline first unveiled its $1.2 billion, state-of-the-art international gateway at JFK’s Terminal 4 in 2013.​