Virgin Atlantic's Boeing 787-9 revealed ahead of delivery debut

By David Flynn, September 14 2014
Virgin Atlantic's Boeing 787-9 revealed ahead of delivery debut

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.

Virgin Atlantic's 'Birthday Girl' - Branson's first Boeing 787-9. Kris Hull, Hull AeroImages
Virgin Atlantic's 'Birthday Girl' - Branson's first Boeing 787-9
Kris Hull, Hull AeroImages

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.

Read: Virgin Atlantic mulls Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner

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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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2199

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.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2014

Total posts 441

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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Aug 2011

Total posts 166

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.

31 Aug 2013

Total posts 60

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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2199

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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 698

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! 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Sep 2013

Total posts 462

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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2199

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.

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.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 26

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

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

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1377

So that makes VA and BS to have coloured engines, whereas everyone else seems to have gone for white.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1377

Edit. VS not BS.

QR also has a very small logo, but basically white

07 Aug 2012

Total posts 193

I'm guessing VA is meant to be AV? Avianca has red engines on their 787. BA has blue engines on theirs.

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1242

I love that the wing tips are slicked in red as well.

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