Virgin Atlantic Airways will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its launch by introducing the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on its ‘Old England to New England’ route between London and Boston this winter, the carrier has confirmed. The airline’s first 787-9 is currently in assembly and is due to roll-out and fly in August 2014 and will be delivered to the airline before the end of September 2014.
The aircraft, to be named ‘Birthday Girl’ is due to enter service on October 28, 2014 on the six times weekly London Heathrow – Boston Logan route replacing the A330 and A340s that currently serve the route in partnership with its transatlantic partner and minority shareholder Delta Air Lines.
The modern generation airliners will be initially utilised on Virgin Atlantic’s transatlantic network and after its Boston debut the type will be progressively introduced on routes to Washington DC, New York and latterly Newark by the end of the first quarter of 2015 as additional aircraft are delivered. Virgin Atlantic has 15 787-9s on order with options on ordering another eight and purchase rights on a further 20 aircraft. It will be the first European operator of the new larger variant of the Dreamliner.
According to latest updates to the airline’s winter flight schedules, the 787-9 is provisionally planned to serve the London Heathrow – Washington Dulles route on a five times weekly basis from December 17, 2014, increasing to a daily schedule from January 23, 2015. It is also due to debut on a daily rotation on the London Heathrow – New York JFK route from February 28, 2015.
The airline will configure its 787-9 fleet in a three-class arrangement with a 31 seat Upper Class business cabin and seating for 35 passengers in Premium Economy and 198 in Economy. The Premium Economy cabin will be arranged in a 2-3-2 layout providing additional space to the 3-3-3 cabin in Economy.
"We are extremely excited to be welcoming this aircraft to our fleet. After 30 proud years of serving our customers around the world, this is going to revolutionise our airline and bring with it new innovations and a cutting edge product for them to enjoy,” said Craig Kreeger, chief executive officer, Virgin Atlantic.
"The 787-9 will make up 40 per cent of our fleet by the end of 2017 which demonstrates our commitment to the Dreamliner as the centrepiece of our future fleet. We're looking forward to the next 30 years," he added.
The aircraft will benefit Virgin Atlantic’s passengers on longer-haul routes where the on-board experience and fuel efficiency benefits of the new airliner will be further amplified. Alongside a host of passenger benefits, the latest Dreamliner brings substantial commercial and environmental benefits. These include being 21 per cent more fuel efficient on a per flight basis than an equivalent sized aircraft, as well as having a 60 per cent smaller noise footprint than aircraft of a comparable size, the airline said.
The new aircraft type will play an important role in Virgin Atlantic's future network strategy. Although the 787-9s will initially strengthen its transatlantic business partnership with Delta Air Lines, the aircraft will also be utilised in time on Virgin Atlantic's existing routes from Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester to the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East and Asia and later to open new markets. When it first ordered the aircraft the carrier said it would be be "instrumental in introducing new routes" like Bangkok, Melbourne, Rio de Janeiro, Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver and due to its long range both Perth and Hawaii were also under consideration.