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 AirlineRoute.net 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.
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.”
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.