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Virgin Atlantic's Boeing 787-9 to fly Boston, Washington DC, New York

By David Flynn     Filed under: Virgin Atlantic, Airbus A380, Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Virgin Atlantic will launch its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner onto the London-Boston route on October 29, after taking delivery of its first 787-9 in late September.

Washington DC, Newark and New York's JFK airport will follow, the airline says, with the GDS booking system as reported by showing Washington flights from December 17 with New York JFK starting from February 28, 2015.

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.

"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" said Virgin Atlantic chief executive Craig Kreeger.

For his part, Virgin Atlantic chairman Richard Branson says 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," Branson said during a flying visit to support Virgin America's efforts to gain a foothold at the city's Love Field airport.

“It’s going to look stunning and will give Virgin Atlantic a real shot in the arm" the billionaire Brit promised, adding that he is also keen to bring the larger Boeing 787-10 into the fleet.

Read: Virgin Atlantic mulls Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner

PREVIOUS | Virgin Atlantic remains on the fence about the Airbus A380 but says it's full steam ahead for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The Richard Branson-backed airline has become increasingly less enthusiastic about the A380 since it placed an initial order for six superjumbos with options for a further six in 2000.

Virgin Atlantic expected its first A380 to begin flying from 2008 on routes to "New York, Hong Kong, Sydney, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Tokyo."

At the time, Branson saw the A380 as presenting "an exciting opportunity to create new ways of flying for our passengers."

"Virgin Atlantic's A380s are going to be bigger and better than any aircraft which has preceded them with bigger and better cabins for all our passengers."

But Virgin Atlantic has yet to begin flying the double-decker jet, continually deferring its order – most recently in July last year, pushing the earliest delivery to 2018, a decade after first flights were planned – and the airline remains on the fence.

“We have options for six A380s” Virgin Atlantic CEO Craig Kreeger tells BusinessWeek. “We have deferred those a number of times and we haven’t yet decided what we will do when time comes for a terminate-the-batch decision.”

Also read: Four more airlines join the A380 ‘superjumbo club’ this year

Keeger is far more enthusiastic on the prospects of the fuel-efficient Boeing 787, which is expected to join the Virgin Atlantic fleet  in September this year ahead of inaugural passenger flights in November.

“We are very pleased with the customer features of the aircraft,” Kreeger says, teasing that the airline's Dreamliner fit-out would be consistent with Virgin's aim to be “always extraordinary.”

Virgin Atlantic has signed up for 16 of the long-range Boeing 787-9 which will carry 'Upper Class' business class, premium economy and economy cabins, with "between 250 and 290 seats depending on whether the aircraft is used for business routes or leisure routes."

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."

Review, photos: Virgin Atlantic's new Upper Class Dream Suite

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.

Virgin previously claimed they "will also be instrumental in introducing new routes" incliuding Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Seattle and Toronto.

At the time the airline also said that Melbourne and Perth were "under consideration", but this was of course before Virgin Atlantic pulled out of Australian skies with the axing of its Sydney-Hong Kong route. 

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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.


Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 26/4/14 by watson374

In all honesty, it's probably a single mid-size long-and-thin aircraft that suits Virgin Atlantic best, hence the 787-9.

I find the suggestion of Bangkok quite interesting - it should keep BA on its toes.

2 on 27/4/14 by Chris_PER

I'm all for the A380, but to avoid a Qantas-style debacle all over again with choice of aircraft, please take the 787 or even the A350.

3 on 28/4/14 by Libertyscott

The only case for the A380 lies in replacing 747s on routes where there is demand, LHR-SFO, LHR-JFK/EWR.  VS also uses them on the leisure heavy routes from LGW and MAN, but these are better served by high density configuration twins, with the 787-10 or 777-X bound to be better for them.  Indeed, the 777-X is probably the best option to replace the 747s.  I can see the long term sensible fleet for VS being entirely 787s or 787s with 777-Xs on a few higher patronage routes.

It appears the A380 order, which was very early, was a typical SRB publicity driven decision, because he wanted the biggest airliner on the market, before BA. Whereas BA took its time, carefully considered the 747-8 as well, and placed a much big order and took the planes far sooner.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if VS puts its Upper Class suite 4-abreast in the 787s as it did with the A330s (which squashed them in). Even NZ, unafraid to go for 10-abreast in economy on its 777s, went for 3-abreast with is updated version of the product on the 787s - it clearly saw that going 4 abreast would mean far too many tall passengers would be scrunched up in the front.

1 on 11/5/14 by Phalanger

On the 330, the middle seats are actually crossed over each other, not sitting in seperate rows (it's not pure 4 across).  The seats are the same length as on their other planes, and the restyled curing gives more room around the upper body.  I think the walking area might be slightly less, but the seat is fine.

1 on 11/5/14 by watson374

The centre seats are nested into each other, giving an additional herringbone look to the herringbone layout. IIRC the A330 version has, due to interior space limitations, slightly shorter beds on the inner seats. I believe that if the layout continues on the 787-9, it will even out perfectly to have full-length beds for all.

4 on 28/4/14 by gippsflyer

The A380 is a bit of a niche product, best suited to landing slot constrained airports with heavy pax load history. It's an amazing aircraft, but wasted on anything other than major trunk routes. Smaller aircraft give airline schedulers more flexibility - hence why some of the love (amougst airline execs) has gone, even though I'll always prefer an A380 premium cabin! 

1 on 23/6/14 by Robert

May be Qantas should consider the 787-9...may be they will get one in 10 years time and hand it to jet star.Like the 777..another missed boat for QF.

1 on 23/6/14 by watson374

Everything goes back to Qantas-bashing, doesn't it?

I'm going to try and distract Robert by mentioning a four-class BA 787-10.

5 on 23/6/14 by airtraveladdict

The a380 is the not the answer to everything.

EK regularly flies the a380 between Bangkok and Hong Kong on fifth freedom routes with really low loads in business and first.

1 on 23/6/14 by Oliver

Well they must be making money on it to keep it.

1 on 23/6/14 by airtraveladdict

EK doesn't have to make money to fly a route, they have very deep pockets.


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