Virgin Australia’s newest Airbus A330-200 has been sighted at the Airbus factory in Toulouse, France, as its delivery date nears.
The aircraft has been allocated the Australian registration VH-XFJ, and is due to be delivered to Australia before the end of September and operate its first scheduled passenger flight in the first week of October. It is the sixth and final factory fresh example from Virgin’s order of the Airbus widebody.
Virgin spokesperson Luke O’Donnell said the new aircraft would have an identical on-board product to Virgin’s five other A330s that have come from the Airbus factory in Toulouse, with 24 business class seats laid out in a 2-2-2 configuration and 255 economy seats in laid out 2-4-2 abreast.
Virgin chief executive John Borghetti had said at the airline’s full year results presentation on August 29 that the airline would “soon” unveil a new premium product that would “raise the bar”, without going into details, but leading to speculation that the airline’s latest A330 would be delivered with a new business class.
The impending arrival of the aircraft comes as one of Virgin’s oldest A330s – the 14-year-old ex-Emirates VH-XFB – was withdrawn from service on Friday.
Named Cable Beach, VH-XFB operated Virgin Australia’s inaugural domestic widebody service from Sydney to Perth as DJ553 on May 26 2011.
It was due to depart Melbourne for Singapore at 1330 on Tuesday as VA9941 according to flight tracking website flightaware.com, for end-of-lease maintenance.
The aircraft’s last commercial flight in Virgin Australia colours was on Friday, September 12 as VA 694 from Perth to Melbourne, landing at Tullamarine at 2242.
Following the arrival of VH-XFJ and the departure of VH-XFB, Virgin will have six Airbus A330-200 in its fleet that currently fly between Perth and Australia’s east coast capitals.
Meanwhile, passengers using Virgin’s domestic lounge at Melbourne Airport will be able to go straight from the lounge to the gate after the opening of a dedicated security screening point.
The premium exit at Melbourne service follows the introduction of kerbside lounge entry at Sydney Airport.