Virgin Atlantic to further postpone A380 order

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Virgin Atlantic is looking to postpone again its Airbus A380 order, says head of strategic fleet planning Alan Leeks.

The UK carrier still has a commitment for six aircraft of the type, with deliveries currently scheduled between 2017 and 2019. “The aircraft are scheduled to come in pairs,” said Leeks at Flightglobal’s Ascend Finance Forum in London today.

But he points out that it is difficult to operate a six-aircraft fleet, in any airline, and Virgin Atlantic is looking at further pushing back deliveries.

The airline is also looking at phasing out part of its Boeing 747-400 fleet from 2016 onwards, confirms Leeks.

He says five units under operating leases will be phased out in 2016 as the carrier cuts 747-400 operations out of London Heathrow airport.

Virgin Atlantic operates 12 Boeing 747-400s, with the remaining seven units based in London Gatwick and Manchester, says Leeks.

The airline will fill the Heathrow capacity using the Boeing 787-9 model, the first of which is to be delivered in September.

The carrier ordered 16 aircraft of the type in 2007 and expected the first delivery in 2011. It recently converted one option into a firm order.

Two 787-9s are expected to deliver this year while another seven are due in 2015, says Leeks.

Virgin also operates three A340-300s and 13 A340-600s. Leeks says two A340-600s will be returned to owners next year.