Virgin Atlantic has welcomed another Airbus A330neo, which it has named 'Queen Of The Skies' in homage to the late Queen Elizabeth II. The aircraft touched down at London Heathrow yesterday and becomes the fourth A330neo in the Virgin fleet.
Readers scanning the headline of this article may have thought it another April Fool's joke, but Virgin isn't bringing back the Boeing 747. The airline has christened its latest Airbus A330neo 'Queen of the Skies', a moniker also bestowed on the iconic 747. The brand-new widebody (registration: G-VEII) can seat up to 262 passengers - 32 in Virgin's business 'Upper Class' (including two Retreat Suites), 46 in premium economy and 184 in economy.
Since receiving its first A330neo in October 2022, the airline has inducted three more and will gradually phase out its older A330-300s, of which it still operates 10 - the next-generation A330neo is powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines and offers 25% less fuel burn and carbon emissions compared to previous generation aircraft.
G-VEII is in fact the second plane in the Virgin Atlantic fleet to be named Queen of the Skies. One of the airline's now-retired Airbus A340s (registration: G-VEIL) was given this name back in 2004 during a ceremony led by the Queen herself, and served the carrier for over 12 years before it was withdrawn from use in 2016.
The airline announced the name of the aircraft back in January via its Twitter account, joining its three other A330neos - Billie Holiday (G-VJAZ), Space Oddity (G-VTOM), and Eliza Doolittle (G-VLDY). The jet would complete its customer acceptance flight on March 24th before departing Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (TLS) at 13:18 on March 31st, arriving at Virgin's London Heathrow (LHR) base at 13:47.
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Virgin Atlantic has an order for 16 Airbus A330neos for delivery until 2026. The carrier first announced its order with Airbus back in June 2016 - for 10 A330neos and options for six more - with deliveries to take place between 2018 and 2020. However, the COVID pandemic forced Virgin to re-think its fleet plans, and it delayed deliveries of its neos until late-2022.
As confirmed by the airline's social media team, Virgin's latest A330neo is currently scheduled on its services to Boston, Miami and New York if you fancy a trip on the Queen of the Skies.
Have you had the chance to fly on one of Virgin Atlantic's Airbus A330neos yet? How did it compare to the airline's other aircraft? Let us know your stories in the comments.