Virgin Atlantic to Target First Dreamliners at Eastern U.S.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. plans to use its first Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliner for flights from London’s Heathrow airport to Boston, with the initial batch of jets all destined for U.S. east coast routes.

Europe’s first 787-9 variant of Boeing’s newest wide-body will be delivered in late September and is scheduled to enter service to Boston Logan on Oct. 28, serving the city six times weekly, Crawley, England-based Virgin Atlantic said today.

The U.K. carrier’s second 787, due in December, will be used for Heathrow-Washington trips, with planes three and four serving Newark in New Jersey and New York’s John F. Kennedy International airport from January and February. Later planes will be deployed on longer services where a 21 percent gain in fuel economy will return the greatest savings, Virgin said.

Virgin has 17 Dreamliners on order, including one recently converted contract, plus options for four more planes with a total list price of $5 billion. The wide-body aircraft will seat 198 people in coach class, 35 in premium economy and 31 in Upper Class, as the carrier’s premium product is known.

The Dreamliner will account for more than half of the Virgin Atlantic fleet by 2018, Chief Executive Officer Craig Kreeger said in the statement. The carrier is also interested in adding the larger 787-10, founder Branson said last month.

Of the Dreamliner routes announced today, three -- Boston, Washington and Newark -- are operated by a mix of Airbus Group NV A330 and A340 aircraft, including A340-300s which are due to exit the Virgin fleet by the end of February and -600s of which two planes are due to be retired at the beginning of the year.

New York JFK is served by the same three models, as well as Boeing 747-400s, the last five of which are due to leave the Virgin fleet between September 2015 and July 2016. The airline will continue to operate the jumbo jet from London Gatwick.

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