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.

With assistance from David Fickling in Sydney.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kari Lundgren in London at To contact the editors responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at Christopher Jasper.

Photo Credit: A Virgin Atlantic logo is seen at check-in desks at Gatwick airport. Alessia Pierdomenico / Reuters