Virgin America took delivery of their first Airbus A321neo aircraft, becoming the initial operator for the Airbus narrow-body airplane. The New Engine Option (NEO) aircraft is powered by CFM International’s LEAP-1A power plants, which reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by approximately 15 percent. The engines also provide a 50 percent cut in overall NOx emissions. In 2015, the LEAP-1A received certification by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
“We have been with Virgin America from the beginning and we are excited to launch this new chapter in that relationship,” said Gaël Méheust, 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 our engine has to offer.”
“We are honored to be the first operator of this 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 powered by LEAP-1A engines – 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.”
The LEAP-1A engines are delivering at least a 15 percent fuel savings in commercial service compared to Virgin America’s current generation aircraft, which is equivalent to cutting 5,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions with each plane every year. In addition, NOx (nitrous oxide) emissions are 50 percent below regulatory requirements as outlined by the Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP). The LEAP-1A-powered A321neo also significantly reduces noise levels, generating only half the noise footprint compared to previous generation aircraft.
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.
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.
The aircraft is expected to enter service on May 31, 2017 with an inaugural flight from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA).
As first announced in April 2016, Virgin America was acquired by Alaska Air Group in December 2016.