Virgin Atlantic Formally Cancels Their A380 Order

Filed Under: Virgin Atlantic

This was inevitable, though is still noteworthy. Years ago Virgin Atlantic placed an order for six Airbus A380 aircraft. This was back when it looked like the A380 would eventually be the future of aviation, rather than a dying plane that’s just being kept alive by an Emirates lifeline (A380 production would have ended if it weren’t for Emirates’ recent order of A380s — they ordered a further 20 A380s, with an option for another 16).

Virgin Atlantic first repeatedly delayed delivery for the A380, and then eventually suggested they wouldn’t add the plane to their fleet anymore. I suspect any chance of Virgin Atlantic taking delivery of the plane ended in 2012, when Delta invested in the airline, given that they’re quite anti-A380.

I don’t know what exactly Virgin Atlantic’s motivation was for still technically maintaining the order, though I’m sure they had some reason, perhaps something involving accounting for either them or Airbus.

In 2016 Virgin Atlantic placed an order for 12 Airbus A350-1000s (they’ve since ordered A330-900neos as well), which they’ll begin taking delivery of next year. As they began to refer to this as their new “flagship” aircraft, it became especially evident that the A380 order would never come to fruition. I imagine Airbus has known this all along, and odds are that much of Virgin Atlantic’s deposit towards the A380 could instead be put towards the A350 order.

While Virgin Atlantic still hasn’t publicly made an announcement about canceling the order (which they may not, since they may prefer to let this die quietly), Virgin Atlantic’s order for six A380s has disappeared from Airbus’ February 2018 orders & delivery sheet, which suggests the order has been canceled. This comes as a surprise to no one — if anything, the question is what took so long.

With this adjustment, airlines with A380s remaining to be delivered include ANA (three planes), Emirates (61 planes), and Singapore Airlines (three planes). We’ll have to wait and see if any other airlines place an order for the plane — there have been rumors that British Airways is considering a further order for the A380, though I’d be surprised to see it happen.

As someone who loves the A380 I’m of course sad to see this, especially as I’m sure Virgin Atlantic would have done something fun with the plane.

(Tip of the hat to A350900)

  1. I always thought BA was the one airline where the A380 really made sense since they are so centralized at LHR. The aircraft is probably a few decades ahead of its time.

  2. The bigger question is when are the 20 Amedeus leading orders going to disappear from Airbus’ backlog.

  3. I always wondered what Richard Branson envisioned upper class to be on those A380s. Ah well I guess we’ll never know.
    On the other hand, wont’ there be a secondhand a380 market (or isn’t there one already?) I’m quite curious which airlines will grab the old SQ a380s.

  4. What a shame, the a380 came to live a few years too early. Are there any news as to how ANA will configure their a380s (first class? Business class seats…) ?

  5. @joey I think that HiFly got some of SQ’s old a380s. Now it’s a question to see how they will be used, but I’m pretty sure it will just operate seasonal routes

  6. A380 didn’t come to life too early, other planes pulled from the demand and the airlines saw different economies of operating planes. You can’t tell me that A350 and 787 didn’t dig into demand for the A380; more efficient planes are certainly having an effect on A380.

    Would there have been an announcement if Virgin’s A380 order were being reduced due to buying the A350s? Maybe that was part of it.

  7. A mediocre airline surrounded by trendy flashy hype
    Uncomfortable cramped business class seats without leg room for a 6 foot 2 person
    Poor food quality
    The small business class lounge and meager offerings add to the disappointment
    Not sure what the fuss is but for a few bucks /miles more I’ll gladly fly BA in First

  8. @Alan that’s the thing… if there was more demand airlines would be operating the a380 instead of lower capacity planes (specially as slots become more limited). It just happens to be that most airlines can’t fly it at it’s maximum efficiency point since demand to fill these planes isn’t there.

  9. Quite sad to hear this, but it’s inevitable. I also wondered what Virgin would have done with all that space. Although, they’ve been steadily cutting back over the past 10 or so years. Anyone remember the in-flight masseuse or LHR hot tub?

    The last VS flight I was on was on a 744 and while the upgraded seats were full, economy was only about half full. Half-full A380 vs. full A350. The economics make this an easy choice for the airline.

    Is there a future for people haulers like the A380 and 74x? I certainly think so. Barring a major overhaul of ATC, the number of flights an airport can take is fixed and not likely to change. We’re already seeing the effects of this in the USA, where small turboprop and some RJ flights are being replaced with mainline flights.

    @Dwondermeant: I’ve had very pleasant experiences with Virgin Atlantic. Is it BA’s First, no, nor is it priced as such. Comparing apples-to-apples, I find the VS experience superior to BA. Is it overhyped? Possibly, but they do get my $.

  10. It’s funny, but I was delayed at DEN about an hour a couple weeks ago and as I wandered around, it dawned on me that every concourse at DIA is designed to accommodate a future expansion to two level boarding.

    Denver’s airport on the prairie was built for the A380.

    I’ll just leave that there.

  11. SGT Peri

    No rational customer would want less choice, and the A380 offers something different.

    Personally I would rather fly an A380 than any other plane.

  12. @ Dwondermeant

    As AlexS wrote, Virgin Upper Class is a J product not 1st, so it’s crazy to compare it to BA 1st and find it wanting. Of course Virgin UC has a business class seat: it’s business class.

    You may not like their lounges but most people do: isn’t Virgin’s LHR “club house” on Lucky’s list of best lounges? Personally I find it a bit “over-designery” (every single lounge seat is set on tiny legs, which looks fabulous, darling, but makes it incredibly difficult for old farts like me to sit down into them or to get up out of them).

    I find their hyper-sexualised brand-offering to be irritatingly patriarchal – but that’s probably just me, and I understand that lots of geeky guys love to see skinny women in restrictive pencil skirts and heavy make-up. Branson always seems to appear at press launches with half a dozen female-only F/As, gurning and playing the fool. Though my biggest gripe is that stupid onboard bar which just creates noise and prevents me sleeping.

    Still, it’s always good to have choices, and I guess there’s room for a party airline between London and a few destinations.

    I’m not surprised to see the A380 order drop though. It was always a mad decision, not aligned with Virgin’s market position, and my guess it was done in a fit of “me-too-ing” when BA put in their order. Virgin’s 747s are going and more of the fleet is now 787-sized. That feels right to me.

  13. @The nice Paul: Spot on comment.

    UC does need a major overhaul soon though. Perhaps when the A350s start delivering?

  14. The a380 project was always a case of Airbus spitting in the wind. As soon as it became clear what a huge success the 777 would be, it was obvious that we are living in a twin-jet world. The flexibility of the 787 only cemented it.

    The few cases where hub-and-spoke make sense (as others have mentioned, slot resticted airports) the huge plane of the ‘future’ would have to have a pair of terrificly powerful and efficient engines. That may be a tall order as GE seem to be the only ones making reliable large twin-jet engines. Making something more powerful, efficient and still reliable would be very challenging.

  15. Very bummed to hear this, as I was looking forward to seeing what they would offer for onboard amenities, as the wide-body jets in their fleet all have bars/lounges.

  16. Virgin should have taken delivery of the A380 and put them the London to Vegas la and san Francisco routes with the extra space to make enjoyable experience. I had the miss fortune of being in economy class on the dreadfully clapped out 747s the most cramped flight ever ( more room in a A321) more suitable for a two hour flight to spain not a 10hr to vagas, cabin crew were great food just ok I took and paid for a party of 9 costing £1,050 each, so there going to cram more seats in a smaller space not for me going to Vegas later this year I won’t be flying with them agine

  17. The A380 really should be the answer to future aviation. With more people flying, more aircraft in the skies and the A380 able to carry more than any other aircraft I do not see why it has been dropped by Virgin.
    I too have travelled in their 747’s which are now more like a “Dying plane”. Boeing still keeps trying to innovate and refresh it, but it is time they realised it has had its day and moved on to created an aircraft that was worth opposition to the A380.
    On long haul I would far rather travel on an aircraft with 4 rather then 2 engines.
    I have travelled numerous times on 747’s and A380’s and it is the latter that wins hands down.

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