Virgin America defers A320neos, slashes A320 order

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Virgin America will defer deliveries of 30 Airbus A320neos by four years and slash orders of A320s with current engines by two-thirds.

The order deferrals and cancellations by the A320neo's original launch customer reflects the San Francisco carrier's slower growth predictions over the next several years.

Virgin America had planned to take deliveries of the CFM International Leap-1A-powered A320neo between 2016 and 2019, but will now receive the 30 aircraft between 2020 and 2022. The remaining 10 CFM56-5B-powered A320s will be delivered from 2015 to 2016.

The carrier had been set to receive the CFM56-powered A320s between 2013 and 2016, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online database.

It announced the 60-aircraft order for both A320s and A320neos in January 2011, but its growth rate has since slowed.

"With slowed growth, we will be able to focus on maximising the value of our network, instead of additional capacity," says Virgin Atlantic chief executive David Cush.

On 10 October, Virgin Atlantic revealed it was cutting capacity by 3.5% in the first quarter of 2013 and offering voluntary short-term leave to certain staff.

The carrier is in the process of re-grouping after a three-year growth spurt, where it averaged a 28% annual growth rate while taking delivery of 24 aircraft. It now plans to grow capacity at a slower rate for the next several years, cutting the average annual growth to percentages in the "mid single-digits", the carrier says.

Virgin Atlantic now operates a fleet of 52 A320s.