Virgin Atlantic Close to Decision on Boosting Dreamliner Order

Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. said it’s close to firming up an order for five more Boeing Co. 787s as the carrier pursues a fleet upgrade to phase out older jets.

Virgin Atlantic is “examining” options it holds on five Dreamliners with an update likely “very soon,” the Crawley, England-based company said in an e-mailed response to questions.

Richard Branson’s long-haul airline already has orders for 16 787-9s, and will become the first European operator of the variant when flights begin next month. The carrier is also interested in the larger 787-10, the billionaire said in May.

Chief Executive Officer Craig Kreeger is seeking to return Virgin to profit by the end of this year after taking over in February 2013, a month after Delta Air Lines Inc. agreed to buy a 49 percent stake as part of a revenue-sharing alliance.

Relatively inefficient Airbus Group NV A340-300s are due to exit by the end of February, while two A340-600s are slated to be retired at the start of the year. The last five 747-400s at London Heathrow airport will leave between next September and July 2016, with Virgin also looking to replace 747s around which the London Gatwick long-haul leisure arm is based.

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