(Adds details, quotes)
PARIS, June 17 (Reuters) - Europe’s Airbus has agreed to sell 14 A330neo wide-body passenger jets to Virgin Atlantic in a deal valued at $4.1 billion, the companies announced at the Paris Airshow on Monday, with an option for the airline to order six more.
The British airline placed firm orders for the upgraded A330 model, which it had been evaluating against the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
But Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive Shai Weiss denied that the order was a snub of Boeing, and said the deal would help update its fleet to take advantage of a forthcoming expansion at Europe’s biggest airport, London Heathrow.
“It happened to be that this one was a fantastic opportunity for Virgin Atlantic to transform its fleet,” Weiss told Reuters at the airshow.
The jets, which will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines, will replace the airline’s A330ceos from September 2021 until 2024, Virgin Atlantic said.
In addition to the new jets, Virgin Atlantic has been actively looking at acquisitions to try and transform its business and return to profitability.
In January, Virgin Atlantic teamed up with Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital to buy Flybe for $2.8 million.
Weiss said the European Commission was market testing Virgin Atlantic’s proposals to alleviate competition concerns on certain airport slots after the deal.
Asked about Virgin Atlantic’s interest in the UK long-haul component of Thomas Cook’s airline, which was put up for sale earlier this year, Weiss said: “We’re watching with great interest, and if an opportunity presents itself, we may be able to act, but there’s nothing to say at this juncture.” (Reporting by Alistair Smout, editing by Louise Heavens and Deepa Babington)