Airbus has delivered the first A321neo, powered by CFM International’s LEAP-1A engines, to U.S. airline Virgin America, an all-Airbus operator, at a ceremony in Hamburg, Germany. The aircraft is expected to enter service on May 31, 2017 with its inaugural flight from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA).
“After Virgin America having been the first customer signing for the A320neo back in December 2010, we are today delighted to deliver the first A321neo to them,” said Fabrice Brégier, Airbus Chief Operating Officer and President Commercial Aircraft.
“We have been with Virgin America from the beginning and we are excited to launch this new chapter in that relationship,” said Gael Meheust, President and CEO of CFM International. “The LEAP-1A has done extremely well in its first months of commercial service. It is proving unprecedented levels of fuel efficiency and environmental responsibility while maintaining the level of reliability Virgin America has come to expect from CFM. We think they will be very pleased with all this engine has to offer.”
The A321neo is the largest member of the A320neo Family. It covers the entire market, from high density to long-range thin routes. According to Airbus, there are currently over 1,300 units on order.
“We are honored to be the first operator of this high in-demand aircraft,” said Virgin America President Peter Hunt, speaking at the ceremony attended by Virgin America teammates, Executives from Airbus, CFM and the aircraft lessor GECAS. “The new A321neo – the third member of the Airbus A320 Family to join our Virgin America fleet – will allow us to further reduce our unit costs and enable us to further reduce our carbon emissions.”
“Increased operational efficiency, productivity, and state-of-the-art technology -- this winning combination makes the A321neo an attractive investment for leasing companies like GECAS who are committed to meeting customers’ operational needs while providing the latest technology and a solid return on investment,” said Alec Burger, President and CEO at GECAS. “The low operating costs and reliability of the LEAP powered A320neo Family make it a strong asset in GECAS’ portfolio.”
Virgin America currently operates a fleet of 63 Airbus A320 family aircraft comprised of A319ceo and A320ceo aircraft powered by CFM’s CFM56-5B engines.
Airbus said that the new A321neo will become the largest aircraft in Virgin America’s fleet, featuring 185 seats - a 24 percent higher capacity at same comfort levels than its current A320s.