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Virgin America to fit 24% more passengers in new planes

Virgin America

A Virgin America jet arrives at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. The California-based airline announced it was acquiring 10 new jets to expand its fleet to 73 planes by 2017.

 

(LM Otero / AP)

Virgin America has ordered 10 new Airbus planes that can seat 24% more passengers in each cabin, the airline announced Tuesday.

The new A321 Neo will hold 185 seats, compared with the 150 seats on the current A320 model, which has a shorter fuselage than the newer plane, according to the European aircraft manufacturer. The seats won’t be smaller, airline officials said.

The carrier, based in Burlingame, Calif., now has a fleet of 58 planes, with plans to add five planes next year, plus the new A321 jets in 2017, bringing the total to 73 planes.

The planned fleet expansion reflects more good news for an airline that became a publicly traded company only last year and had reported annual losses on a consistent bases since it launched in 2007. Low fuel costs have helped turn the company around.

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In the three-month period that ended in September, Virgin American reported net income of $73 million, an increase of $31.3 million from the same period in 2014.  

Virgin America executives say the new planes are 20% more fuel efficient than current planes per seat, cutting up to 5,000 tons of carbon emissions per plane annually.

“I’m proud to say that Virgin America already has one of the most fuel efficient fleets in the U.S. industry, and this announcement only builds on that,” said Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group and part owner of the airline.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow Hugo Martin on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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