Six Virgin A330s to be purchased, four leased from AerCap

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Virgin Atlantic is to lease four of its 10 Airbus A330-300 aircraft from lessor AerCap, and purchase the other six from Airbus.

The carrier disclosed the agreement for the twin-jets today after months of deliberation about an interim type to fill a capacity gap ahead of introduction of 15 Boeing 787-9s.

It indicates that it will deploy the aircraft on routes such as Beijing, Vancouver and Cancun.

Virgin Atlantic says the order is worth around $2.1 billion, and that it has secured financing for all the aircraft via AerCap. It adds that the aircraft will be 10% more fuel-efficient than its current Airbus A340-300s, of which it has six.

Chief executive Steve Ridgway says: "Despite the worst economic conditions in decades, we are focusing on sustainable growth in the years ahead using the most fuel-efficient aircraft possible."

The airline states that it will select an engine supplier during the summer.

It has not detailed the configuration of the A330s but says they can seat up to 270 passengers. The airline adds that passengers will have access to in-seat USB ports and be able to use personal messaging services on their phones.

"We will be the first UK long-haul airline to roll out this service across its fleet," it claims.

Virgin Atlantic's switch to A330s and 787s is something of a climbdown for the carrier, which publicly underlined its preference for using four-engined Airbus A340 and Boeing 747 aircraft, rather than twin-jets, on long-haul routes.