Virgin Atlantic's first Boeing 787-9 has broken cover ahead of its delivery later this month to an eagerly-waiting Richard Branson.
Caught in the wild on the flight line at Boeing's factory at Everett, north of Seattle, the livery reveals no no dramatic Dreamliner flourishes – it's just the familiar Virgin Atlantic 'Euro white' fuselage with a splash of bright metallic red on the engines and tail.
Obscured by the gantry in this sneaky shot shared by Kriss Hull of Hull AeroImages is the Union Jack-waving 'Scarlet Lady' of this Boeing 787, which carries the clever registration of G-VNEW.
Virgin Atlantic's inaugural Boeing 787-9 service will take place on the London-Boston route on October 28, marking the airline's 30th birthday – hence this plane's name of Birthday Girl.
“Within five months of the Boston launch, Dreamliners will start flying on other key London to US East Coast routes,” Virgin Atlantic says, with Washington DC pencilled in for December and New York's JFK airport by the end of February 2015.
“As the fleet grows, the aircraft will be added to longer-haul routes, where the onboard experience and fuel efficiency benefits will be even further amplified" the airline promises.
Inside Virgin's Boeing 787
Virgin Atlantic will be the first European airline to fly the stretched Boeing 787-9, which has more seats and a longer range than the original 787-8.
The fleet will be configured with 31 seats in 'Upper Class' business class, 35 in premium economy and 198 in economy.
With orders for 17 Dreamliners "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" says Virgin Atlantic chief executive Craig Kreeger.
The Dreamliners will be used to replace the airline's older and more fuel-thirsty Airbus A340s and have already been earmarked for routes from the UK to the USA, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
For his part, Virgin Atlantic chairman Richard Branson boasts that Virgin's Dreamliner fleet will be slick and, well, very Virgin.
"We’ve got completely new seats, completely new entertainment systems, completely new bars, a completely new lighting system," says the billionaire Brit.
“It’s going to look stunning and will give Virgin Atlantic a real shot in the arm" he added, while also allowing that he is keen to bring the larger Boeing 787-10 into the fleet.
The Dreamliners will see an improved version of the Upper Class 'Dream Suite' which the airline debuted in 2012.
"Given the cabin's a bit bigger, we can make some of the dimensions a bit bigger" Keeger's predecessor in the corner office, Steve Ridgway, told Australian Business Traveller during the launch of the Dream Suite.
"Just that little bit of extra width in the cabin makes all the difference when you can divide it up among the passengers."
The Premium Economy cabin will also be refreshed with a more comfortable seat design and a small social space for 'mingling'.
Review, photos: Virgin Atlantic's new Upper Class Dream Suite
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.