Virgin Australia warms to Airbus A350

By David Flynn, August 8 2014
Virgin Australia warms to Airbus A350

“Seriously outstanding”, “very impressive” and “an incredibly competitive aircraft” – that was some of the praise which Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti showered on the Airbus A350 as he toured the advanced jet on its whistle-stop visit to Sydney this week.

Airbus finds itself in a familiar tussle with Boeing over which company will win the order for Virgin’s fleet beyond 2017 to replace the airline’s existing Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 jets.

Borghetti has previously talked up both the A350 and the competing Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and in February 2013 told Australian Business Traveller that the Boeing-or-Airbus question would be “more an end-of-year decision”.

“We don’t have to rush into this” Borghetti said.

“We’re talking about fleet composition beyond 2017. Admittedly we have to make a call soon, but we’ve still got a year or so up our sleeves.”

That year-or-so is now all but done, and orders for both birds are piling up, but Borghetti is intent on taking his time to make the right decision – and no doubt land the best discount against the list price, which sits at US$249.5 million for 787-9 Dreamliner and US$295 million for the Airbus A350-900.

And a few sweet words for the A350 is no doubt going to help in that.

“We’ll take our time and make sure we make the right decision, but this (A350) is a very impressive aircraft” Borghetti admitted.

Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti (left) and Airbus sales exec Isabelle Floret (right) on the A350. Airbus
Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti (left) and Airbus sales exec Isabelle Floret (right) on the A350

“Our team’s been studying this very carefully, obviously, along with the Boeing aircraft, and from everything we’ve seen on paper certainly (the A350’s) an incredibly competitive aircraft” he told The Australian.

“Whether you’re looking at it from the operating statistics or the customer comfort, I have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised.”

The style-savvy CEO also singled out the spacious interior of the A350, which boasts standard 18 inch-wide seats for economy passengers.

“You really don’t think you’re in a tube; you think you’re in a room because you’ve got a flat roof and almost a flat side” he observed.

“It’s very different to what was, of course, the original 350 design. This is outstanding, seriously ­outstanding.”

Photo tour: Inside the Airbus A350 test aircraft

Signing what would on the face of things be a multi-billion dollar cheque for flash new planes might seem at odds with an expected $200m+ pre-tax loss for the 2013-2014 financial year which Virgin is tipped to report later this month.

But with the need to plan ahead for the next generation of Virgin’s fleet, and the cost savings on fuel and maintenance for these new jets, it could be an easy argument to make that Virgin is investing its way back into the black.

For a peek inside the A350, check out our walkthrough of the first passenger-ready A350 and our first-hand report from on board the A350's flight test earlier this year.

Read: Airbus A350 takes flight

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT


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.

Lufthansa - Miles & More

29 Jul 2014

Total posts 182

If I remember correctly he said the same about the 787 when it was in Australia and he showed heavy interst in the 777X on initial launch with a repair partnership with air New Zealand I would go 787/777X

therealqueen Banned
therealqueen Banned

19 May 2014

Total posts 40

What about a couple of old dc3 from sudan air.?

Given virgin hasnt made any money this might be the only option!

QF Plat

14 Jul 2014

Total posts 29

You could say the same Qantas

09 Nov 2011

Total posts 88

Spoken like a true Qantas flight attendand with the same attitude most Qantas staff have - look in the mirror - Qantas is a mess

09 Sep 2012

Total posts 139

How convenient for Sydney John, not even having to travel to head office.

09 Nov 2011

Total posts 88

Either way - 787 777x or A350 - MAKE A DESICION!! It is timew for Virgin to get on with expansion and get some more excitement into their International network

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2014

Total posts 441

Qantas take note.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Feb 2011

Total posts 52

After Flying Qantas A330-200 EX JET STAR HEAPS anything from Virgin has to be better by a country mile!

Qantas needs a kick in the lowest area! Charging $200.00 each way more for Business Class seats that would even be a shock if you have of booked economy.

Maybe Qantas should just give up on the Domestic business sector, If charging 50% more for 50% less doesnt make you money i have no idea what will.

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 464

I hope they go the wide bodied Airbus route later this decade.

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