Virgin Atlantic and Boeing have announced an extensive partnership which includes the largest order yet by a European airline for Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner. Virgin Atlantic is ordering 15 of the 787-9 Dreamliners - with options on ordering another eight 787-9s and purchase rights on a further 20 aircraft. The 787-9 Dreamliner burns around 27% less fuel per passenger than the A340-300, the aircraft it will replace in the Virgin Atlantic fleet. The order will see Virgin Atlantic take delivery of its new planes from 2011 and could be worth up to US$8 billion.
The Boeing 787-9, which can carry up to 290 passengers depending on the bed or seat layout, brings a step change in aviation and will substantially reduce the industry’s impact on the environment. Its innovative design, with over half of the aircraft built from composite materials, helps to reduce fuel burn and carbon emissions significantly. The noise footprint of the 787-9 is also 60% lower than the A340-300, benefiting local communities living close to airports.
Virgin Atlantic will choose an engine manufacturer, either Rolls Royce or General Electric, for the aircraft in due course.
Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic, commented:
“Virgin Atlantic is totally focused on delivering a cleaner airline in the air and on the ground, and our order today will significantly cut carbon emissions per 787 Dreamliner flight. With this dynamic new plane, our customers will get the world’s best customer service onboard combined with world-class engineering throughout. The 787 Dreamliner symbolizes the environmentally-kinder aircraft of the future - cleaner, quieter, lighter and truly the best experience in the air.”
As part of its drive for greater fuel efficiency, Virgin Atlantic also revealed today that it would hold a joint biofuel demonstration, with Boeing, Virgin Fuels and engine maker GE Aviation, on one of its aircraft during 2008. Further details will be announced later this year but the demonstration, using a Boeing 747-400, will be the first worldwide by any commercial airline and aim to develop sustainable fuel sources suitable for commercial jet engines and the aviation industry. The demonstration forms part of Virgin Atlantic’s vision for what the aviation industry can achieve by using clean-fuel technology to reduce carbon emissions and should encourage a faster pace of development for the industry.
Boeing and Virgin Atlantic are also working in partnership to cut aircraft emissions on the ground, as well as in the air. Boeing supports the trials of towing Virgin Atlantic planes to so-called “starting-grids”, enabling aircraft to reduce their fuel burn and carbon emissions by up to 50% on the ground, and reduce noise emissions for local communities. The trials, at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick Airports, as well as San Francisco, have produced significant positive results which will be used to find alternatives to traditional taxi-ing procedures at the world’s busiest airports. Boeing’s involvement in reviewing aircraft technical requirements for towing will enable other airline customers to develop procedures for reducing fuel burn and emissions on the ground.
Jim McNerney, Chairman, President and CEO of Boeing, added:
“It’s great to welcome Virgin Atlantic, one of the most pioneering and customer-focused airlines in the world, as a major new customer for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The customer-inspired innovation behind the design of the 787 will bring benefits to airlines, passengers, the environment and the aviation industry. Boeing’s wider partnership with Virgin Atlantic will deliver further innovative and environmentally progressive solutions across the industry.”
The 787-9 Dreamliner will bring even more benefits to Virgin Atlantic travellers. The aircraft has the biggest windows in the air, giving all passengers clear views of the horizon; an even better cabin environment, including higher ceilings and larger luggage bins; and greater long-range capability (up to 8,500 nautical miles) enabling trips from London to Perth or Hawaii, for example, without stopping en route. A more direct route uses less fuel, with fewer take-offs and landings reducing aircraft noise as well as freeing-up airport slots with fewer connecting passengers.
The new Virgin Atlantic 787 Dreamliners will enable the airline to continue its global expansion, possibly flying to cities including Rio de Janeiro, Seattle, Vancouver, Bangkok and Melbourne.