Tag Archives: Virgin Atlantic Airways

Virgin Atlantic unveils plans to expands its network at an expanded Heathrow Airport

Virgin Atlantic Airways has made this announcement to expand its operations at London’s Heathrow Airport if the airport is expanded:

  • Airline has released details of its planned long haul and new short haul route network, as it calls for an end to IAG’s stranglehold over the UK’s only hub airport 
  • Future Virgin Atlantic route maps show intention to serve up to 84 new destinations in the UK, Europe, and across the globe when the third runway is complete, a fourfold increase on its 19 long haul destinations from Heathrow in 2020
  • Ambitious plans to become Britain’s second flag carrier hinge on forthcoming Government decision on slot allocation at an expanded Heathrow

Virgin Atlantic is set to challenge IAG’s dominance at London Heathrow, as it today unveils its plans to significantly increase its long haul route network and launch a new comprehensive network of domestic and European routes when the airport expands. The new route maps illustrate how the airline’s flying programme could grow to deliver a step change in choice for customers, but only if the Government reforms the way new Heathrow slots are allocated to enable the creation of a second flag carrier at the airport.

The plans represent a fourfold increase on Virgin Atlantic’s current international network and includes exciting unserved destinations such as Kolkata (India), Jakarta (Indonesia) and Panama City (Panama), where currently passengers cannot travel non-stop. In total, Virgin Atlantic plans to serve 103 domestic, European and long haul destinations, up from 19 long haul destinations in 2020. Of the 84 new destinations planned:

  • 12 are domestic, including Belfast, Glasgow and Manchester
  • 37 are European, including Barcelona, Dublin and Madrid
  • 35 are global, including  Buenos Aires, Jakarta and Kunming
Aberdeen Belfast City Edinburgh
Exeter Guernsey Glasgow
Inverness Liverpool Jersey
Manchester Newcastle Newquay

The Government’s Aviation Strategy Green Paper has set a primary objective for the allocation of additional Heathrow capacity to facilitate effective competition between airlines, benefitting consumers through more choice and lower fares. It has also set secondary objectives to improve domestic connectivity and to improve connectivity to international destinations that are currently underserved or unserved. Virgin Atlantic’s route network plans enable the Government to meet all three objectives by bringing new competition across multiple domestic, European and global routes, as well as opening up brand new destinations. Without a second flag carrier connecting passengers between its domestic, short and long haul services, these important objectives cannot be met.

The rules governing the allocation of new slots are currently being reviewed by the Government.  Virgin Atlantic warns that the new take-off and landing slots must be allocated in a way that enables the development of a second flag carrier with the necessary scale to compete effectively with IAG. Ministers are being urged to grasp this once in a generation opportunity to shake up the Heathrow market so that British passengers and business can benefit from two flag carriers competing hard for their custom.

IAG currently dominates Heathrow Airport, controlling more than half of the total capacity. A new report published last week found one in four passengers flying from the airport – 18.5million people – have no choice but to fly with that airline group.  The report also concluded that these passengers may be paying up to 10% more in air fares as a consequence.

As things currently stand, IAG holds more than 55% of all the take-off and landing slots at Heathrow, with no other airline holding more than 5% of the remaining slots. IAG and its joint venture partners operate 77 monopoly routes, which forces customers to fly on their planes as no rival direct services exist. Virgin Atlantic intends to compete on 25 routes where there is an IAG monopoly.

IAG and joint venture partner monopoly routes from London Heathrow on which Virgin Atlantic intends to compete if slot reform is achieved:

Accra, Ghana Austin, USA Barcelona, Spain
Basel, Switzerland Belfast City, Britain Budapest, Hungary
Buenos Aires, Argentina Cape Town, South Africa Cork, Ireland
Dublin, Ireland Glasgow, Britain Gothenburg, Sweden
Helsinki, Finland Inverness, Britain Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Lyon, France Madrid, Spain Manchester, Britain
Newcastle, Britain Nice, France Osaka, Japan
Prague, Czech Republic Raleigh Durham, United States San Diego, United States
Toulouse, France

Virgin Atlantic’s plans address the urgent need for strong, effective competition at the UK’s only hub airport and will reduce the cost of flying for millions of British business and leisure passengers for whom Heathrow is the gateway to the world.

Shai Weiss, CEO Virgin Atlantic, commented:

“Never has the need for effective competition and choice at Heathrow Airport been more evident than during this summer of disruption, which has brought misery for tens thousands of travellers.  Britain, and those who travel to it, deserve better than this.  Air passengers need a choice and Virgin Atlantic is ready to deliver when Heathrow expands.

“Heathrow has been dominated by one airline group for far too long. The third runway is a once in a lifetime opportunity to change the status quo and create a second flag carrier. This would lower fares and give real choice to passengers, as well giving Britain a real opportunity to boost its trade and investment links around the world. Changing the way take-off and landing slots are allocated for this unique and vital increase in capacity at the nation’s hub airport will create the right conditions for competition and innovation to thrive.”

2019 has been a year of significant growth for Virgin Atlantic which includes the announcement of three new routes from Heathrow to Tel Aviv, Mumbai and São Paulo.  It also formed part of the Connect Airways consortium that recently acquired Flybe and will launch its expanded joint venture with Air France, KLM and Delta by the end of the year. The latest addition to the airline’s fleet, the Airbus A350, took to the skies this month and follows its announcement in June that it will purchase 14 A330-900neos, meaning that by 2024 Virgin Atlantic will have one of the youngest, cleanest, greenest fleets in the sky.

Planned expansion routes:

Virgin Atlantic aircraft photo gallery:

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Virgin Atlantic places its first Airbus A350-1000 ‘Red Velvet’ into service

Virgin Atlantic placed its first Airbus A350-1000 (G-VLUX) into revenue service yesterday, September 10, between London (Heathrow) and New York (JFK).

All photos by the airline.

Virgin Atlantic promotes aviation careers for women through Barbie dolls

Virgin Atlantic made this announcement:

Current statistics from the Women’s Engineering Society indicate that only 12% of the UK engineering workforce is female and similar statistics show that only 4.3% of UK pilots are women, with the aviation sector in particular dominated by men.

Originally created to show girls that women have choices, Barbie has had over 200 careers throughout her history, and in the brand’s 60th year three Virgin Atlantic careers join the ranks to inspire girls to believe anything is possible.

Research has identified that many girls begin to develop limiting self-beliefs at age five, and doubt their full potential – this is called the Dream Gap. To champion change, Barbie launched the Dream Gap Project, an on-going initiative with the goal of levelling the playing field for girls globally. Our partnership aims to highlight role models to show girls they can be anything and help close the Dream Gap.

Virgin Atlantic has teamed up with Barbie UK to show girls a variety of careers in STEM and aviation

Our partnership with Barbie marks the start of a wider initiative to encourage more women into STEM and aviation careers. Alongside our charity partner, WE, the Passport for Change programme aims to inspire young people to engage with STEM subjects and consider a future in aviation. With Barbie, our dual mission to inspire girls through more careers includes our annual Future Flyer open day at our HQ, as well as leveraging female engineers and pilots to show girls real role models, through school visits and trips to our engineering hangars. We’ll also be shining a spotlight on STEM careers using Barbie as an educational tool, inspiring on-board Barbie content, and a social campaign; #SeeHerFly.

The dolls have been designed in the likeness of real Virgin Atlantic uniforms and show ethnic and body diversity, reflecting the body types available in the Barbie line. The pilot doll has articulated ankles and flat shoes and wears a pilot’s uniform complete with wings and badge. The engineer doll wears flat safety boots, an access lanyard and noise cancelling headphones, while the cabin crew doll pays homage to the iconic red Virgin Atlantic Vivienne Westwood uniform.

Virgin Atlantic has teamed up with Barbie UK to show girls a variety of careers in STEM and aviation

According to Phil Maher, our EVP Operations, it’s imperative we play the long game, highlighting to primary aged children that any job role is open. ” It’s essential that Virgin Atlantic plays a pivotal role in encouraging women to succeed in STEM careers.  It’s evident that for those women who do become pilots and engineers, career satisfaction is exceptionally high, and it’s no surprise that job satisfaction is exceptionally high.   It’s essential we showcase to girls of all ages just how fulfilling a career in our industry can be and our partnership with Barbie is just one of the steps we’re undertaking to achieve this” he said, noting that our partnership with Barbie allows us to speak directly to our future generation of aviation workers, whether they aspire to be pilots, cabin crew or engineers. President of the Women’s Engineering Society, Dawn Childs, agrees. “The fact so many young girls narrow their career prospects from an early age by believing that some roles and jobs simply are not for them is a tragedy,” she said. “It’s not just a tragedy for them, but it denies businesses 50% of the potential future talent pool at a time when the engineering skills gap is widening and unsustainable. This fabulous initiative will help to normalise seeing women in these vital roles, and help them aim high in their future career aspirations.”

Virgin Atlantic were a founding member of Women in Aviation and Aerospace in 2018 as well as a signatory of the Women in Hospitality, Travel and Leisure charter. We’ve also developed a Springboard Network which aims to help women in junior roles develop clear career pathways to become senior leaders.

While these Virgin Atlantic dolls are one-of-a-kind, young fans can imagine themselves in-flight with the Barbie Pilot doll as well as play out different roles in other fields with other Barbie career dolls available. Later in the year, Pilot and Crew dolls will be sold on-board and in key retail partners to further celebrate the partnership.

For anybody looking to take the next step in their aviation career, Virgin Atlantic offers both cabin crew and engineering apprenticeships as well as a pilot cadet scheme. More information can be found at www.virginatlantic.com/careers

For more details, visit Barbie’s dream gap project to inspire the next generation.

Delta and Virgin Atlantic to boost summer flying between U.S. and U.K. in 2020

Delta Air Lines is boosting its transatlantic schedule between London-Heathrow and its coastal hubs in Boston and New York-JFK next summer, adding 15 percent capacity compared to 2019. Alongside joint venture partner Virgin Atlantic, the two airlines will increase capacity across the Atlantic by nearly 10,000 seats per week compared to this year, offering customers unrivalled customer experience and more choice than ever before.

“Delta and its partners offer an unmatched global network that’s capable of taking Boston and New York customers to more worldwide destinations than ever before,” said Joe Esposito, Delta’s Senior Vice President – Network Planning. “Our investment at these airports and in these communities continues to deepen as we grow our flight offerings and live up to our commitment to connect the world better than any other airline.”

Delta One 767-400.jpg

More flights to Heathrow

Beginning March 28, 2020, Delta will increase its JFK-Heathrow services to three daily year-round frequencies, with Virgin Atlantic operating five, maintaining a convenient eight-flights-daily schedule. The new Delta frequency will mark the airline’s first-ever daylight trans-Atlantic flight and will complement the existing daylight service offered by Virgin Atlantic.

Starting this winter, all of Delta’s JFK and Boston-Heathrow flights will operate on its newly retrofitted Boeing 767-400 aircraft, 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 also features 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 for added comfort. The aircraft is equipped with 33 Delta One seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, 20 Delta Premium Select seats in a 2-2-2 configuration, 28 seats in Delta Comfort+ and 156 seats in Main Cabin.

On March 29, 2020, Virgin Atlantic will be bolstering the joint venture’s presence from Los Angeles and Seattle to Heathrow. Los Angeles will see three additional weekly flights, for a total of 17 weekly frequencies and Seattle will see four additional weekly flights, for a total of 11 weekly frequencies. LA will also be the second Virgin Atlantic destination to receive the airline’s new A350, from next year, while the additional frequencies from Seattle will be operated by Boeing 787 aircraft equipped with 31 lie-flat seats in Upper Class, 35 seats in Premium Economy, 36 Economy Delight and 162 seats in Economy.

Growth at Gatwick

Additionally, Delta is set to return to London’s Gatwick Airport alongside Virgin Atlantic with new services from Boston and New York-JFK effective May 21, 2020. Gatwick will become the seventh transatlantic destination served nonstop by Delta from Boston, while flights from New York-JFK will be operated by Virgin Atlantic. Gatwick is currently the largest unserved European market from New York and will be one of four daily flights from three U.S. cities next summer for the partners. It offers easy access to south London and some of the capital’s top sites, including Westminster and Buckingham Palace.

“We’re excited to return to London Gatwick, which is where we launched our first U.K. destination over 40 years ago, and continue to grow our international network from Boston,” said Roberto Ioriatti, Delta’s V.P. — Transatlantic. “Together with Virgin Atlantic, we are strengthening our presence in the northeast U.S. and in London, offering customers a greater choice of destinations combined with the excellent service they can expect from our airlines.”

Delta’s return to Gatwick will mark the first time the airlines have both served the airport since their partnership began in 2014. Customers flying from the northeast United States will benefit from up to 18 daily flights between Boston and New York and the United Kingdom.

Delta will operate Boston-London Gatwick service on Boeing 757 aircraft equipped with 16 lie-flat seats in Delta One, 44 seats in Delta Comfort+ and 105 seats in Main Cabin. Virgin Atlantic will operate New York JFK-London Gatwick service on newly-renovated Airbus A330-200 aircraft equipped with 19 lie-flat seats in Upper Class, 35 seats in Premium Economy, 32 Economy Delight seats and 180 seats in Economy. Customers flying on Delta and Virgin Atlantic-operated flights enjoy Wi-Fi connectivity, fully flat-bed seats, in-seat entertainment for every customer and a host of special touches to make every flight memorable.

More for Manchester

Delta is also set to return to Manchester with new peak-summer service from Boston effective May 21, 2020. Manchester will become the eighth transatlantic destination served nonstop by Delta from Boston, while flights from Atlanta, New York-JFK, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Orlando will continue to be operated by Virgin Atlantic. Together the airlines will offer a schedule of up to six daily flights to Manchester from six U.S. cities next summer.

Delta will operate Boston-Manchester service on Boeing 757 aircraft equipped with 16 lie-flat seats in Delta One, 44 seats in Delta Comfort+ and 105 seats in Main Cabin.

“Our announcement today marks another phase of growth, both for our transatlantic network and for our partnership with Delta,” said Juha Jarvinen, E.V.P. Commercial at Virgin Atlantic. “I’m delighted that between us, we’re increasing our presence across our hub airports of Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester, reaffirming our commitment to provide more choice, convenient schedules and an unrivalled customer experience across the Atlantic. Our increased services to Los Angeles and Seattle further cement our commitment to our west coast flights, which follow the introduction of our exceptionally popular Manchester – Los Angeles route that launched earlier this year.”

Delta at JFK and Boston

Delta has grown its presence in New York City by over 65 percent in the last 10 years and today operates more than 520 peak-day departures from its hubs at LaGuardia and JFK. The airline is JFK’s No. 1 carrier, offering more than 240 peak daily departures to nearly 100 worldwide destinations. The airline first unveiled its $1.4 billion, state-of-the-art international gateway at JFK’s Terminal 4 in 2013. Delta also continues to make significant investments to provide more consistency, comfort and convenience in the travel experience throughout all cabins of service on its flights to and from New York.

Delta is Boston’s No. 1 global carrier, with the airline and its partners offering the most international seats from Logan International with flights to up to 18 international destinations, including new Delta-operated seasonal service to Lisbon and Edinburgh, an additional Amsterdam flight by partner KLM, a daytime London-Heathrow flight operated by partner Virgin Atlantic, and new nonstop Seoul-Incheon service operated by partner Korean Air all added earlier this year.

Delta’s new London-Heathrow service is scheduled as follows:

JFK

  • Departs JFK at 10:15 a.m. and arrives LHR at 10:25 p.m. (daily)
  • Departs LHR at 7:30 a.m. and arrives JFK at 10:30 a.m. (daily)

Delta and Virgin Atlantic’s new London Gatwick services are scheduled as follows:

BOS

  • Departs BOS at 9:00 p.m. and arrives LGW at 8:45 a.m. (next day) (daily)
  • Departs LGW at 10:30 a.m. and arrives BOS at 1:20 p.m. (daily)

JFK

  • Departs JFK at 7:30 p.m. and arrives LGW at 7:50 a.m. (next day) (daily)
  • Departs LGW at 12:55 p.m. and arrives JFK at 3:40 p.m. (daily)

Delta’s new Manchester service is scheduled as follows:

BOS

  • Departs BOS at 10:00 p.m. and arrives MAN at 9:30 a.m. (next day) (daily)
  • Departs MAN at 11:30 a.m. and arrives BOS at 2:00 p.m. (daily)

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.

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.