Virgin Atlantic postpones delivery of A380 superjumbos

Virgin Atlantic Airways Limited has decided to delay taking the delivery of six A380 superjumbos that were ordered from Airbus SAS (EAD) over a decade ago, according to Bloomberg.

Virgin Atlantic, which placed an order for the double-deckers in 2000, has ‘deferred them yet again,’ with the first delivery now due in 2018 rather than 2017, said chief executive officer, Craig Kreeger. Among the first carriers to order the A380, Crawley, England-based Virgin was originally due to take the model in 2006.

However, the programme delays at Airbus and the global economic slump have prompted the airline to evaluate its own business model and assess whether it still required the world’s largest jetliner. ‘It’s hard but not impossible to see a world where we want to take the aircraft,’ Kreeger said, adding: ‘It’s not a clear choice.’

While most airlines are opting for new planes such as the A380 for fuel efficiency, Kreeger said that Virgin is focused more on the introduction of Boeing’s 787, with the first of 16 Dreamliner aircraft due in September 2014.

Boeing had several operational problems with the model, which was grounded for three months earlier this year following battery glitches. It was also undergoing investigation after a fire on an Ethiopian Airways Enterprise jet at London Heathrow on July 12.

‘We can’t ignore the technical issues Boeing has faced,’ Kreeger said, adding that any further anomalies would likely be sorted out by the time Virgin gets the plane.

He also said that the regulatory approval for an antitrust-immune joint venture with Delta Air Lines, which holds a 49 percent stake in Virgin, should be received before the year’s end.

Kreeger, who took over as CEO on February 1, is currently pursuing a turnaround plan for the ailing company to revive earnings by 2015.