Virgin Atlantic Airways has committed to take delivery of another 13 new Airbus A340-600s and taken options on 13 more, in its largest ever aircraft deal.

Deliveries to the airline will start in the first half of 2006. The A340-600, like the smaller capacity A340-500, is powered by four high-bypass ratio Rolls-Royce Trent 500 engines, burning up to 20 per cent less fuel than older generation jet aircraft, while providing the aircraft with outstanding range and payload performance that is unmatched by any competing aircraft.

Virgin Atlantic had previously committed to 12 A340-600s, of which seven have already been delivered to serve the carrier’s routes to the USA, Asia and Africa. A further five will be delivered by 2006. The latest commitment will take Virgin Atlantic’s A340-600 fleet to 25 aircraft, and to 38 with the exercise of the options.

“The Airbus A340-600 is a phenomenal aircraft,” said Virgin Atlantic Airways Chairman Sir Richard Branson. “The orders for A340-600s and A380s that we now have will allow us to add two or three more routes per year, as well as expand capacity to existing destinations,” he added.

In total, Virgin Atlantic’s A340-600 can seat 306 passengers.

“I’m delighted about Virgin’s decision to expand its fleet with the A340-600. It is the most advanced and innovative aircraft in its category and as Virgin shares Airbus’ taste for innovation and excellence, I know that Virgin Atlantic is taking full advantage of the A340-600’s great potential,” said Noël Forgeard, President and CEO of Airbus.

The A340-600 is the most advanced aircraft flying today. It enjoys state-of-the-art features – such as weight-saving composite structures, a fuel-saving aerodynamic design that includes wingtip-fences, and pilot and mechanic friendly cockpits, flight controls and systems. This technology fit comes as standard in all Airbus aircraft, at no extra charge.

The A340-600 is the largest member of Airbus’ A330/A340 Family, the market leading aircraft family in the 250-375-seater segment. More than 820 firm orders from over 60 customers have been booked, with a current market share of 57 per cent with respect to directly competing models.

Airbus is an EADS joint Company with BAE Systems.