Virgin Australia retires its oldest Airbus A330s

By David Flynn, September 16 2014
Virgin Australia retires its oldest Airbus A330s

Virgin Australia has now retired its two oldest Airbus A330 aircraft, leaving the airline with a fleet of six A330s to ply the east-west transcontinental routes.

The airline leased two of the twin-aisle jets from French corporate and investment bank Credit Agricole in early 2011 as part of the relaunch from Virgin Blue to Virgin Australia, with the aircraft kick-starting Virgin’s Coast to Coast service.

However, both aircraft – which carried registrations VH-XFA and VH-XFB – were already a decade into their lives, having been flown by Emirates from late 2000.

XFA travelled from Melbourne to Singapore in August and underwent ‘end of lease maintenance’ back in the hands of Credit Agricole.

XFB is also making the trek from Melbourne to Singapore today as VA9941 ahead of the late-September delivery of Virgin Australia’s sixth new A330 from Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, France.

Leaving the Virgin Australia fleet: XH-XFB is off to Singapore. FlightAware
Leaving the Virgin Australia fleet: XH-XFB is off to Singapore

Unlike its factory-fresh siblings, XFA and XFB were fitted with older recliner-style business class seating in a 2-3-2 configuration compared to more modern angled flat-beds arranged 2-2-2 (below), along with an upgraded inflight entertainment system.

To fill the gap left by the retirement of XFA and XFB, Virgin Australia has rostered more of the smaller Boeing 737 aircraft onto its Brisbane-Perth route.

The Boeing 737s are the workhorse of Virgin's domestic fleet but carry a hundred fewer passengers, with 176 travellers (eight in business class and 168 in economy) against the A330's 278 (27 in business class and 251 in economy).

A spokesman for Virgin Australia confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that “as a result of the latest (network) review, we have replaced some of the Airbus A330 services on the Brisbane-Perth route with Boeing 737 services and also added two extra Boeing 737 return services per week”.

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

21 Apr 2013

Total posts 34

i have a feeling virgin australia will use virgin atlantics dream suite for it a330 and 777 buissness class in the future 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Apr 2012

Total posts 14

i have never flown xfa and xfb but i understand they have acquired a reputation which has resulted in the nicknames of xfa AWFUL and xfb BLOODY so there are plenty of people that would be glad to see them go. 

If I am flying on a flight that exceeds 4 hours, I like to experience AVOD to help to pass the time


13 Sep 2013

Total posts 115

This is great news! 

Luckily I have only got A/B once. It was such a disappointment walking on board expecting the awesome new VA Biz, but instead getting some big recliner that barely worked

Virgin Australia - Platinum

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 86

I got the recliner as well, but thanks to a fellow passenger who was incredibly interesting to talk to and an abundance of alcohol, the flight was far more enjoyable than sleeping.  :)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Dec 2011

Total posts 11

Interesting... "Virgin Australia is considering an Asian route for the big bird." I have a hutch they are going to fill in the void that Virgin Atlantic has left recently in the HKG-SYD route. That would be fantastic: Virgin group airlines all the way for SYD-LHR

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2207

I don't think so. By retiring the two ex-EK frames and getting a new frame, VA will have exactly six A332s, which should match their Coast-to-Coast requirements quite nicely.

I believe the whole "new Asian route is definitely HKG" speculation was based on the addition of the sixth new A332 without the retirement of the two ex-EK frames.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 699

It is indeed great news that XFA/XFB are leaving the VA fleet, as they were always the last thing you wanted to see at the aerobridge. It always used to be a bit of a lottery with these birds servicing the East/West Coast route, and they were frequently used as substitution aircraft so they often popped up on the day.

The main problems with XFA/XFB were the ancient entertainment system (although if you asked nicely, you could always get a Galaxy pad in Business), and the much more cramped seating (in Business, the seats were quite narrow and the seat height pretty low, although plenty of foot room). Service/F&B was otherwise the same (which was typically good).

I used to switch flights if I knew XFA/XFB awaited, but only because the other A330 fit-out made it seem so bad in comparison. Look forward to VA revealing any new fit-out, which I suspect VA won't dangle before us until it's almost ready to be booked (quite different from Qantas' preference to preview well before it's ever fitted out).

09 Sep 2012

Total posts 139

How eminently predictabe of Sydney John to shaft Brisbane with 737s, while leaving his favoured southerners unscathed.


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 670

Yes, how dare an airline with flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Perth put Boeing 737s onto the smallest city with the lowest passenger numbers.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 May 2014

Total posts 48

I had the pleasure of XFB yesterday.  During pushback FA's apologised in advance that some of the seat back screens in economy weren't working. 

During the meal service I overheard them apologise further to another passenger, blaming 'the plane being old'. Bring on retirement I say!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Jan 2014

Total posts 4

Great news.  

VA's new A330 cabins look great!  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jul 2014

Total posts 25



17 Jun 2014

Total posts 17

As someone who flew XFB twice in the last week and crossing their fingers that it won't happen again next week - thank heavens!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2014

Total posts 445

VA are leaving the announcement of the A330 routing very late if they're taking delivery of it at the end of September.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1378

If the rumour of a new businsess product for the September delivery is correct (to be rolled out to other aircraft) then they may be stuck with the current flights for a while as they cycle aircraft for refurb.

16 Sep 2014

Total posts 3

I must be the only person that liked the older A330 in Business...

Was heaps more room and heaps of extra leg room... Whole cabin seemed alot more roomy... Didnt mind this on the day flights.. Heaps of recline for lounging back in. Yes the lack of AVOD was very annoying... Just got drunk instead :-)

23 Jul 2011

Total posts 4

Sad to see VA's BNE - PER on 738, go Qantas this your chance drop the price a take over by flashing new features, VA flights are usually packed on the 738s on the mid weeks


25 Aug 2014

Total posts 42

I was also a bit of a fan of the seat and legroom on  XFA and XFB in business. Never really used the IFE however. 

Velocity Platinum

10 May 2013

Total posts 82

I flew on XFA in Feb, just after it got back from the last C check in in Manila. The IFE was not working at all, so they went to plan B. They lowered the CRT monitor screens from the ceiling and we all got to watch the same thing. I actually laughed when I saw that they still have CRTs stowed up there. Last time I saw one of those was on a Continental DC-10

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