UK long-haul specialist Virgin Atlantic has taken delivery of its first Airbus A350-1000. The aircraft flew into London Heathrow Aug. 10 from Airbus’s Toulouse plant.

The aircraft is the first of 12 that were ordered in 2016. Three more are scheduled to be delivered this year, with the balance over 2020-21.

Virgin Atlantic will operate the first seven aircraft in a three-class layout: economy, premium economy and upper (or business) class. The A350s will be used to launch Virgin’s redesigned upper-class cabin and a new eight-seat lounge, called The Loft, replacing the existing upper-class bar area. The Loft is a lounge area that all passengers will pass through as they board but which is reserved for upper-class travelers during the flight.

The final five aircraft will be in a leisure configuration and operate on services to Florida and the Caribbean from London Gatwick and Manchester. The final aircraft will come into service as the carrier’s remaining Boeing 747-400s are retired.

The initial scheduled route is Heathrow-New York JFK on Sept. 10, although the airline has said it may begin earlier if circumstances allow.

Alan Dron,