Yesterday in a polite, but implicit with muted frustration talk, Virgin Atlantic’s CEO Shai Weiss complained about Rolls Royce and the 787 Trent-1000 engine.
Just an hour or so after Tim Clarke of Emirates did much the same thing about the engines in A380’s from EA and RR.
While accepting problems were almost resolved now with groundings – only one aircraft, G-VNYL is left to complete of the 17 in the fleet, he made it politely clear that it was never going to be the engine everyone hoped for.
In effect while the passengers love the 787 cabin (and it’s nicer than the A350-1000 in Premium and Economy I’d agree), the aircraft are less reliable. The engines are a big problem.
His comments suggest a great deal more downtime is required, servicing is far more frequent and checks more demanding and intense, than they should be on engines of this age – 1 to 5 years.
I’d heard as much from BA, too. So this is no surprise. But it does explain why they (Virgin) went with the A330neo and didn’t take up options or order more 789’s.
Yes the Neo is also Rolls Royce engined, but it’s a derivative and it’s well developed, rather than being a from-scratch design.
Away from the technical aspects his other big demand was that the regime that runs slot allocations at Heathrow needs drastic overhaul when the third runway gets built.
Virgin Atlantic’s expansion is dependent on its purchase of Flybe and rebranding that to Virgin Atlantic – bringing regional UK and European flights into Heathrow to feed its growth will be key.
The current way slots are allocated goes back 60 years and tends to favour incumbent airlines like BA who through their IAG parent and ownership of AerLingus, Iberia and Vueling, control some 61% of the airports slots.
Its also lead to some very high prices – as much as £75m for a slot pair – when legally the sale of slots nobody actually has legal titles to is questionable.
Virgin Atlantic has also benefitted from slot values, using them as collateral to buy at least one of its 787’s.
However it doesn’t mean that the system isn’t in need of more fairness and thought. Asking for it when you expect to benefit from it at another airlines expense is something else.