Virgin unclear if A380 will figure in 747 replacement plans

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Virgin Atlantic needs to decide how it will replace its Boeing 747s from the end of the decade, but does not have any definitive plans to go ahead with its Airbus A380 order.

The airline's chief executive Craig Kreeger told Flightglobal Pro sister magazine Airline Business in its September 2013 cover interview that the 747 replacement plan will be its next fleet decision.

The airline has 12 747-400s which recently underwent a refurbishment programme "so that fleet has quite some time to run", says Kreeger. "We're starting to think about replacing that aircraft, with deliveries from around 2018-19 into the 2020s. That will be the next fleet decision for us."

In 2001, the airline placed an order for six A380s, which are a potential replacement for the 747-400s, but Kreeger is non-committal about the future of that contract.

"We've deferred the A380 deliveries and at some point we'll have to take a decision ultimately whether to take them or not," he says. As we sit here today, we don't have any definitive plans to take them, but that's a decision we still have to make."

Meanwhile, Virgin is in the midst of rolling over its fleet of 19 four-engined Airbus A340s to more efficient twinjets. Ten A330s have been introduced over the last three years, while the first of 16 Boeing 787-9s arrive from September next year.

"We've taken out a total of six A340s over the last 12 months, and the fleet will be replaced [entirely] by the 787s, and the remainder should all be gone by 2017/18," says Kreeger. He partly blames the airline's large fleet of four-engined A340s and 747-400s for the losses at the airline, saying that it wasn't the right fleet "for a rising fuel price environment, so [high] fuel prices have hit us harder".