Virgin set for $4.5bn Airbus order

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The Independent Online

Sir Richard Branson's long-haul airline, Virgin Atlantic, is today expected to unveil a huge order for Airbus aircraft worth around $4.5bn.

Sir Richard Branson's long-haul airline, Virgin Atlantic, is today expected to unveil a huge order for Airbus aircraft worth around $4.5bn.

The airline is due to announce it will buy the Airbus A340 aircraft in preference to Boeing's 777 jet in order to support a major route expansion.

Virgin Atlantic is expected to order up to 15 A340 aircraft and take out options to buy a further 15. The fleet expansion is designed to help Virgin Atlantic meet its target of 10 per cent growth a year, taking passenger numbers to at least six million a year by 2008.

Sir Richard announced the creation of 1,400 new jobs and the launch of new routes to Australia, the Bahamas and Cuba in March. At the same time, the company said it was buying an additional two ultra long-range A340-600 jets.

The latest order for long-range jets will come as a major boost to the UK which makes wings for Airbus. The European aircraft manufacturer announced last month that it planned to raise overall production by 50 per cent over the next two years and increase deliveries of the wide-bodied A330/A340 family from six to eight a month.

The Virgin order will come as compensation for the airline's announcement earlier this summer that it was delaying delivery of an order for 6 Airbus A380 super-jumbos by 12 months. It said at the time there were concerns that airports around the world would not have sufficient time to enable them to prepare to accommodate the massive aircraft, which is the length of a football pitch.

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