Virgin orders 10 Airbus jets worth $2.1 billion

British airline company Virgin Atlantic, 51%-owned by Richard Branson, ordered 10 mid-sized Airbus passenger jets worth $2.1 billion. The planes, which each sit up to 270 passengers, will be delivered between 2011 and 2012.


AFP - British airline Virgin Atlantic marked its 25th anniversary Monday by announcing what it described as a recession-beating deal for 10 Airbus passenger jets worth 2.1 billion dollars (1.5 billion euros).

Richard Branson's Virgin said it had ordered 10 mid-sized and fuel-efficient A330-300 passenger in a further sign it was doing far better at beating the downturn compared to its beleaguered rival British Airways.

"Despite the worst economic conditions in decades, we are focusing on sustainable growth in the years ahead using the most fuel-efficient aircraft  possible," Virgin Atlantic's chief executive Steve Ridgway said in a statement.

"Virgin Atlantic has a strong history of successfully investing during a downturn and our Airbus order today sends a strong signal that now is the time to invest, in order to help protect jobs and get the world's economy moving again," he added.

Virgin said the planes, which each sit up to 270 passengers, would be delivered between 2011 and 2012.

"They will also assist future growth, helping Virgin Atlantic to fly to new destinations from London such as Beijing, Cancun and Vancouver," the airline said.

The deal is also a further boost for European plane manufacturer Airbus, which won firm orders for 58 aircraft at last week's Paris Air Show. US rival Boeing's haul was limited to only two planes.

During the 2007 edition of the biennial show, and well before the onset of a global economic crisis that drained demand for aircraft and air travel, Airbus and Boeing won 800 orders worth more than 100 billion dollars.

On Monday meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic celebrated its 25th anniversary with a special flight to recreate the carrier's first-ever journey between London and New York on June 22, 1984.

Invited on board to fly alongside Branson were England cricketer Kevin Pietersen and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood.

Virgin enjoyed soaring profits last year despite a vicious recession in Britain, the eurozone, the United States and elsewhere, as it benefited from rising demand for premium air travel.

Times are not so good, however, for British Airways. Over the weekend, reports emerged that BA was considering selling its OpenSkies subsidiary only a year after acquiring it.

British Airways, which last week asked its staff to consider temporarily working for free as it looks to slash costs, is believed to be considering winding up or selling the subsidiary, according to the Observer newspaper.

Virgin Atlantic, which is not listed on the stock market, is 51-percent owned by tycoon Branson. Singapore Airlines owns the remaining 49 percent.

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