Virgin America becomes launch customer for re-engined, fuel and carbon saving Airbus A320neo
Graphic of Virgin America Airbus A320neo
Tue 18 Jan 2011 – The recently announced Airbus A320neo “eco-efficient” aircraft has gained its first firm customer as Virgin America ordered 30 of the new engine option aircraft as part of a commitment to buy a total of 60 A320s. The airline has yet to announce which of the two engine options it will opt to power the new A320neo: CFM International’s LEAP-X or Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower PW1100G. The aircraft will be fitted with fuel-saving Sharklet fuel-saving large wing tip devices. Airbus says the A320neo responds to “heightened customer environmental interest”, offering a 15 per cent reduction in fuel consumption and carbon emissions – representing an average annual savings of around 3,600 tonnes of CO2 per aircraft – along with a double-digit reduction in NOx emissions and lower engine noise levels.
In what is claimed to be the largest-ever single order for jet aircraft, Indian low-cost carrier IndiGo last week signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus to buy 180 new A320s, including 150 A320neo aircraft. The Virgin America deal means that Airbus has now passed the 1,000th order for its aircraft.
Based in San Francisco – the only airline based in California – Virgin America was founded in August 2007 and today has a fleet of 34 aircraft, which the airline expects to increase to 111 by 2019. First deliveries of the A320neo are due early 2016.
Virgin America claims to having one of the most carbon-efficient operations in the United States, employing practices such as single-engine taxiing, using advanced avionics to fly more efficiently and ‘cost index’ flying – the practice of regulating cruising speeds to reduce fuel burn.
Its headquarters are LEED-Silver certified and the airline is anticipating LEED-Gold certification for its new Terminal 2 home at San Francisco International. It was also the first carrier to have its carbon footprint listed on The Climate registry according to globally-accepted standards and the first in the US to offer its passengers the option of offsetting their flight carbon emissions.
In May 2010, it was selected as the winner of ‘Most Eco-Friendly Airline’in the SmarterTravel Editors’ Choice Awards.
Virgin America is affiliated with the Virgin Group, which has committed to reinvesting all profits from Virgin’s transport related businesses into renewable fuels research.
“Virgin airlines are known around the world for innovation – for harnessing the best in design, technology and entertainment to reinvent the travel experience,” commented Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson. “We’re just as committed to investing in the next generation solutions that will make air travel more sustainable. Climate change cannot be ignored by business, and I believe that we must rise to the challenge of combating it and find new and better ways of operating. The A320neo will help us get there, by lowering costs and reducing our impact on the environment. Virgin America’s existing A320s are now up to 25 per cent more fuel and carbon efficient than the average US fleet, and the A320neo promises to improve on the numbers even more.”
Editor's note 21 Sept 1018: Virgin America was acquired by Alaska Airlines in 2017. For details on Alaska's sustainability activities, click here.