A British air carrier Virgin Atlantic and the American air carrier American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) signed two separate purchase deals with Vertical Aerospace, under which both companies will acquire a total of up to 400 electric vertical take-offs and landing (eVTOL) aircraft combined.

Virgin Atlantic committed to purchasing up to 150 fully electric zero-emissions VA-X4 aircraft capable of flying over 100 miles while carrying four passengers onboard. The single-pilot aircraft is capable of reaching speeds over 200mph. 

The airline expects that the new aircraft will help it to revolutionize urban mobility and electrify air travel, according to Virgin Atlantic statement. The air carrier plans to use the electric aircraft to establish short-haul connectivity between cities and airports of the United Kingdom. In the future, the new air travel service could be offered from London Heathrow (LRH), Manchester (MAN), and London Gatwick Airport (LGW).

“We are excited to be partnering with Vertical Aerospace to pioneer sustainable and zero emissions air travel in the UK. Our partnership includes an option for Virgin Atlantic to acquire up to 150 eVTOL VA-X4 aircraft [...] Combining the design, engineering and manufacturing expertise of Vertical with the award-winning customer experience and operational excellence of Virgin Atlantic,” Chief Executive Officer Shai Weiss was quoted in the statement.

The VA-X4 could be launched in the United Kingdom in 2024, the company believes. However, since the eVTOL aircraft is not yet certified, its actual launch date will depend on how quickly European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will certify the vehicle.

Meanwhile, American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) decided to purchase up to 250 new eVTOL aircraft in a pre-order commitment worth $1 billion. As a part of the recent investment in Vertical Aerospace, the airline also agreed on the option to order an additional 100 VA-X4 aircraft. 

“Emerging technologies are critical in the race to reduce carbon emissions and we are excited to partner with Vertical to develop the next generation of electric aircraft. [...] For years, American has led the industry in investing in newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft,“ Derek Kerr, the Chief Financial Officer of American Airlines (A1G) (AAL), said.

“[The] partnership [with Vertical Aerospace] is another example of that commitment and investment in the future of air mobility. We are excited about the prospect of what this could mean for our customers, and our company,” Kerr outlined that the American’s partnership with Vertical is the latest airline’s commitment to sustainability.

A full-scale prototype of the Bristol-based Vertical Aerospace aircraft is currently in the production stage with the first test flight expected during 2021.

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