UK long-haul carrier Virgin Atlantic will take delivery of four Airbus A350-1000s in 2019, with the type set to make its commercial debut between London Heathrow and New York JFK on Sept. 10.

Virgin has a total of 12 Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-powered A350-1000s on order, scheduled to join the fleet by 2021.

The A350s will be used to launch Virgin’s redesigned upper-class cabin and a new eight-seat lounge, called “The Loft,” replacing the existing upper-class bar area. The Loft is a lounge area that all passengers will pass through as they board but is reserved for upper-class travelers during the flight.

Speaking at Virgin’s A350 cabin launch in April, CEO Shai Weiss originally said the widebody would enter service between Heathrow and New York JFK in August, followed by other routes to JFK later in the year. On July 8, however, the airline said A350 service on the route is expected to commence Sept. 10.

“We may move the inaugural flight earlier, if the operation allows,” the carrier added.

According to the most recent entry into service plan, the A350 will operate a daily Heathrow-JFK return flight from Sept. 10, except on Thursdays when the aircraft will be in planned maintenance. From Oct. 27, scheduled maintenance will switch to Tuesdays.

“Four A350s—Mamma Mia, Red Velvet, Rain Bow and Queen of Hearts—will join the airline’s fleet by the end of 2019. All four aircraft will initially fly between London Heathrow and New York JFK. Virgin Atlantic will continue to take delivery of a further eight A350s throughout 2020-2021, with full schedule and destination information set to be revealed in due course,” Virgin said.

All of Virgin’s initial A350 deliveries will be based at London Heathrow.

“The final five planes will offer a leisure configuration and will operate routes to Florida and the Caribbean from London Gatwick and Manchester Airport. These deliveries will take place in 2021 as the airline beings to retire its 747 fleet,” Virgin said.

By the end of 2022, Virgin will have completed its fleet transition, moving from A340s and Boeing 747s to A330s, A350s and 787s.

During the Paris Air Show in June, Virgin also announced a firm order for 14 Airbus A330-900neos, plus six options.

Beyond its fleet renewal, London-headquartered Virgin Atlantic, which is part-owned by Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, is awaiting regulatory clearance to extend its transatlantic joint venture to include Air France-KLM.  

Virgin also just secured European Union regulatory clearance for its acquisition of UK regional carriers Flybe and Stobart Air, as part of a consortium with Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital Partners.

Victoria Moores, victoria.moores@informa.com