March 31, 2020
At 15:04 on Tuesday 24 March, G-VWIN Lady Luck touched down on a positioning flight to Bournemouth airport. This marked something of a momentous occasion – as it would be the final Virgin Atlantic flight for our trusty workhorse, our Airbus A340-600.
We intended to retire our remaining A340s from the fleet early this year as part of our fleet transformation plan: The 787 joined our fleet between 2014-2018, A350 deliveries are now well underway, and the A330neo will join the fleet from late 2021 to complete the modernisation of our entire fleet over a ten-year period. The result will be one of the youngest fleets in the skies, halving our average aircraft age by 2024 to just 5.3 years and reducing our carbon emissions by 32 percent.
With the recent developments in our response to the global impact of Covid-19 it made sense to bring forward retiring the A340s from service, so G-VFIT Dancing Queen made its final passenger flight earlier in March, and have moved to a new home in Bournemouth last week, along with G-VNAP Sleeping Beauty and G-VWIN Lady Luck, both of which had also touched down there earlier that day. You may still get to see them in the sky, flying charters for their new owner.
These, our last three A340s, together spent close to 180,000 hours in the sky over more than 21,000 flights during their time in the Virgin Atlantic fleet. Ironically, in all her years flying with us, Lady Luck never made it to Las Vegas.
We took delivery of our first A340-300, G-VBUS Lady in Red, back in April 1993.
We were the launch customer for the longer A340-600, flying the first ever commercial service on the type in August 2002. At the time the A340-600 joined us, it was the longest commercial aeroplane in the skies (the Boeing 747-8 later stole the title by just 93cm).
Ten A340-300s and 19 A340-600s have graced the Virgin Atlantic fleet in total, traveling the length and breadth of our network and indeed the globe, from New York to Sydney – and many places in between. One of them even scored a cameo role in the 2006 Bond film, Casino Royale! (you can read all about our association with James Bond here)
Back in the 90s we adopted the #4Engines4Longhaul slogan for the fleet, which was the style at the time. However, as newer, more efficient twin-engine aircraft entered the scene, our quad-engine fleet became more expensive to run – and created higher carbon emissions. And while some of our customers continue to maintain an almost fanatical admiration for them, many others prefer to fly on other aircraft (exacerbated by the incredible experience our new A350s offer). But you can’t deny there’s a certain charm and charisma about the A340 that many of us are so fond of.
In 2018 we actually brought one back from retirement. Sleeping Beauty Rejuvenated re-entered service after a couple of years in storage, giving our people and customers more time to enjoy her. We won’t be able to do that again, but you can read all about her story, and that of the “A Big Virgin Atlantic Thank You” that you may have seen on her here.
So, on behalf of the many millions of passengers and pets who flew on them and the pilots, engineers, cabin crew and airport teams who knew this graceful and elegant flying machine so well; Thank you and Godspeed, old friend!
We thought we’d end this post with the words (and photos) of some of the many people who flew our A340s through the years…
Our A340 fleet:
|G-VNAP||Airbus||A340-642||Sleeping Beauty Rejuvenated|
|G-VBUS||Airbus||A340-300||Lady in Red|
|G-VEIL||Airbus||A340-600||Queen of the Skies|