Virgin Atlantic shows interest in A330neo

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Virgin Atlantic has become the latest carrier to show an interest in the Airbus re-engined Airbus A330.

Speaking at Flightglobal’s Ascend Finance Forum in London today, head of strategic fleet planning Alan Leeks confirmed Virgin Atlantic’s interest in the A330neo and said the UK airline could place an order.

Virgin already operates 10 A330-300s, as well as 12 Boeing 747-400s, three A340-300s, 13 A340-600s and four A320s, Flightglobal’s Ascend Fleets database shows.

On paper, the A330neo looks like a fantastic aircraft, but it depends on the price offering. It has interesting fuel-burn characteristics and will be appealing to a huge number of airlines,” says Leeks.

Should two engine manufacturers participate in the programme, they will invest more in the powerplants, adds Leeks. “if there is a single engine manufacturer on an aircraft type, they tend to become lazy," he says.

Last month, Airbus executives dampened expectations of an A330neo launch at July’s Farnborough air show, stressing that the airframer does not want to “rush into a decision”.

However, Airbus insists that developing a re-engined version of the small widebody would be “relatively straightforward”.

Airbus's chief operating officer for customers John Leahy confirmed in June that the board is “studying” a re-powered A330 but has concerns about “possible cannibalisation” of sales of the current A330 and smaller variants of the A350.

Virgin Atlantic will take delivery in September of its first Boeing 787-9. The aircraft will be configured in three classes, including premium economy, with 264 seats.

Another 787-9 will join the fleet later in the year, says Leeks. Another seven will follow in 2015.

The airline has traditionally financed its fleet in the operating lease market, but Leeks says the 787-9 fleet will be financed using “other financing products” that allow the carrier to participate in the residual values.

“There is a potential upside on residual values,” he says.