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Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 10:17 GMT
Virgin orders new Airbus jets
Virgin A340 jet
Virgin's A340-300 jets will be replaced by the newer A340s
Virgin Atlantic has announced a 1.35bn ($1.9bn) order for 10 Airbus A340-600 jets and 50 Rolls-Royce engines.

The order will help secure about 3,000 British jobs at Rolls-Royce's Derby plant and at Airbus UK's factory in North Wales.

The new planes, with a range of more than 7,000 miles (11,200km) will replace Virgin's current A340-300 fleet and will be used on long haul flights to the US and Asia.

Many aviation experts had assumed that the rumoured order would be cancelled or postponed as a result of the 11 September terrorist attacks which caused a massive slump in air travel.

Airbus has lost orders for about 90 planes, or more than a quarter of its orderbook, since 11 September as a result of airlines cutting back on investment.

And it is engaged in a fierce battle for new customers with its US rival Boeing.

Cash-strapped

The announcement has also raised some eyebrows in the city about how the cash-strapped airline will pay for the order.

Virgin Atlantic founder Sir Richard Branson must have either driven an exceptionally hard bargain or resorted to vendor financing, according to BBC business editor Jeff Randall.

Vendor financing is when a seller loans a buyer funds to pay for the purchase.

"We are particularly pleased that Virgin has selected the A340-600," said Airbus chief commercial officer John Leahy.

Virgin will be first airline to use the new aircarft when it enters service in June, with three more to be delivered by October and the remaining six by 2006.

Virgin Atlantic is 49% owned by Singapore Airlines.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jeff Randall
"A real boost for British industry"
See also:

24 Jan 02 | Business
Ryanair in Boeing spending spree
23 Jan 02 | Business
Boeing profits take $600m knock
17 Jan 02 | Wales
Airbus challenge to Boeing
17 Sep 01 | Business
Virgin Atlantic cuts 1,200 jobs
30 Jul 01 | Business
Virgin Atlantic profits soar
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