Virgin Atlantic is considering buying 10 longhaul aircraft worth about $3 billion to enter service around 2012.

Virgin Atlantic is in talks with Boeing and Airbus about ordering next-generation fuel-efficient aircraft to operate Virgin Atlantic services from (London) Gatwick airport, a spokesman said on Thursday.

The order could potentially be for 10 aircraft which could be 747-8s or A380s, he added. These would enter service around the time of the Olympics in 2012.

The order could be worth between $2.8 billion and $3.2 billion at current list prices.

Virgin said it would make its choice by next May and the planes would replace eight of Virgin's older 747-400s at Gatwick serving high-capacity leisure destinations such as Las Vegas, Orlando, Barbados, Havana, St.Lucia, Montego Bay and Antigua.

In April Virgin placed an order for 15 of Boeing's new carbon-composite 787 Dreamliner jets worth around $2.8 billion to be mostly based at London's Heathrow airport.

Virgin already has six A380s on order from 2013.

Chief Executive Steve Ridgway told reporters on Wednesday Virgin was still interested in A380s despite comments by Virgin owner Richard Branson in August that he no longer favoured four-engined planes because they generally burned more fuel.

Ridgway said A380s still made sense because they carried more passengers, reducing their environmental impact.