Virgin Atlantic partners with Vertical Aerospace to pioneer zero-emissions short-haul air travel

A render of a Virgin Atlantic branded VA-X4 aircraft
Virgin Atlantic
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
11 June 2021

Virgin Atlantic has announced a partnership with Vertical Aerospace to pioneer sustainable and zero emissions, short-haul air travel in the UK.

The partnership includes an option for Virgin Atlantic to purchase up to 150 eVTOL (electrical Vertical Take-Off and Landing) aircraft and exploration of a UK Joint Venture with Vertical Aerospace, to deliver a Virgin Atlantic branded short-haul eVTOL network.

The fully-electric VA-X4 is a zero-emissions, near-silent aircraft that has a range of over 100 miles. It will carry four passengers in addition to a pilot. The VA-X4 has four tilting advanced rotors at the front and stowable rotors at the rear, making it capable of speeds over 200mph. It is set to revolutionise urban mobility and electrify air travel, with certification to the same safety standards as commercial airliners.

Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic CEO, said: “With innovation and sustainability leadership firmly in our DNA, we are excited to be partnering with Vertical Aerospace to pioneer sustainable and zero emissions air travel in the UK. We pride ourselves on building enduring strategic partnerships and are thrilled to be working alongside Vertical in its mission to bring eVTOL travel to the UK.”

Virgin Atlantic and Vertical Aerospace will be working together to explore a Joint Venture to deliver next generation eVTOL passenger operations in the UK, combining the world-class knowledge and expertise of both partners. The two companies will seek to establish short haul, electrical aircraft connectivity between UK cities and airport hubs starting with London Heathrow, Manchester and London Gatwick. 

Stephen Fitzpatrick, CEO and founder of Vertical, said: “This is the most exciting time in aviation for almost a century. Electrification will transform flying in the 21st century in the same way the jet engine did 70 years ago. By bringing together two entrepreneurial organisations who share the same passion for innovation and best in class partnerships, we can revolutionise urban mobility in the UK and electrify air travel. We look forward to working closely with Virgin Atlantic.”

The goal is to enable sustainable, price competitive, regional connectivity across the first and last 100 miles of the customer journey. For example, it would reduce the 56-mile journey from Cambridge to London Heathrow to just 22 minutes (compared to one hour and 30 minutes by road). With 37 towns and cities with populations over 100,000 within 100 miles of London Heathrow, the VA-X4 offers huge potential to support zero-emissions short-haul transfers for 7.7 million customers outside of London, for flights to and from the UK’s main hub airport. 

A full-scale prototype of the VA-X4 is currently in production and the first test flight is planned for later this year. Commercial operations of the VA-X4 are planned for 2024 following European Union Aviation Safety Agency and UK Civil Aviation Authority certification.

Visit Virgin Atlantic and Vertical Aerospace to learn more.