Virgin Atlantic Airways has signed an agreement with Airbus Industrie to purchase six A3XX aircraft, worth more than US$3.8 billion, for delivery in 2006. The deal includes an option to purchase six more of the aircraft. Virgin Atlantic was among the first airlines to endorse the A3XX, which the Airbus consortium created to compete with Boeing Co.'s 747s. Airbus Industrie says that the A3XX will offer 20% lower seat operating costs compared with the 747-400, while providing up to 40% more seats and up to 10% to 15% more range. The A3XX will be configured in Virgin's three class layout -- upper class, premium, and economy -- and is expected to carry about 555 passengers. The A3XX order remains consistent with Virgin Atlantic's policy of keeping to a four-engine aircraft fleet on its long-haul, transoceanic routes. Virgin Atlantic currently flies to 20 destinations with a fleet of 32 aircraft. Last month the airline signed an agreement with Boeing for five new Boeing 747-400 aircraft in a deal worth more than US$800 million. This followed a deal earlier in the year for delivery of two more 747-400s.