Dreams come true
Virgin Atlantic’s Dreamliner flight targets bigger Chinese market
Published: Jun 17, 2015 05:08 PM Updated: Jun 18, 2015 09:57 AM

Virgin Atlantic launched its maiden 787-9 Dreamliner flight to London from Shanghai on Tuesday. The passengers were in for a surprise when they received exclusive 787 cupcakes and the chance to take a "first flight selfie" while checking in and boarding the flight from Shanghai Pudong International Airport.

Virgin Atlantic operates seven daily flights every week from Shanghai to London and is currently investing 300 million pounds ($469 million) in improving the customer experience.

Building on the success of 2014, during which the carrier returned to profitability and garnered an 11 percent improvement in customer satisfaction scores, Virgin Atlantic has now become the first carrier to fly the large Boeing 787-9 version of Dreamliner on the Shanghai-London route.

The 787-9s are configured with 31 upper class, 35 premium economy and 198 economy seats and will offer numerous benefits to further enhance the airline's award-winning experience.

Not only is the aircraft more environmentally friendly, as it is significantly more fuel-efficient and quieter than existing aircraft models, but the design of the aircraft also enables the cabin to be pressurized at a lower level, which allows for increased cabin humidity.

This is a significant factor in ensuring that passengers arrive at their destination far more refreshed than on other aircraft models, the company stated at their official press release.

Other features include Wi-Fi connectivity, in-flight entertainment with access to the latest movies, dynamic mood lighting throughout the journey and the largest cabin windows of any aircraft flying today (65 percent larger than the industry standard), providing amazing views.

In addition to passenger benefits, the 787-9 Dreamliner (the most efficient aircraft in its class) is set to bring major environmental benefits to Virgin Atlantic. This model produces 20 percent fewer CO2 emissions and has a 60 percent smaller noise footprint than other aircrafts of comparable size, which greatly increases the quality of life of people who live near airports.

At the Dreamliner launch, Stephen King, Head of Asia-Pacific for Virgin Atlantic, said: "We've been serving and delighting our customers for 16 years. The launch of the Dreamliner, with our latest cabin interiors, further demonstrates our commitment to China and enables us to build on the success of our Shanghai route.

"We know our Chinese customers are going to love flying our Dreamliner. Every aspect has been meticulously designed to enhance their experience; not only seats and social spaces, in-flight entertainment and Wi-Fi, but we've also invested in other areas that are so important to customers, including the onboard meal services."


The Global Times had the opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview with Craig Kreeger (pictured above), CEO of Virgin Atlantic Airways, who shared his perspective on the company's China market strategy and the airliner's competitive edge.

Kreeger told the Global Times that VA's decision to put their best airplane on the Chinese routes demonstrates that the company places high priority on the market.

He also said that Hong Kong and Shanghai are the two Chinese financial and tourism centers in which the company now operates, and VA places equal importance on attracting tourists from both venues.

Kreeger claimed that no expansion of VA's presence in China is planned for the near future.

However, he added that if VA continues its improvements in financial performance on the Chinese mainland, they'll look to see if the time is right to add routes to China.

Based on his experience managing American Airlines during a profitable period in the company's history, Kreeger said that the operation of VA is on the right trajectory to turn a profit. The whole team, including himself, is very busy.

Asked about his relationship with Richard Branson, Kreeger said, "I talk to him every few weeks and see him face to face every few months. We exchange e-mails all the time. He is very interested and eager to see his company keep improving. If he has ideas and suggestions, he is very free to send them."

When asked about the advantages of the Virgin Atlantic Airways and Delta Airlines joint venture compared to the partnership between British Airways and American Airlines, Kreeger replied that Delta is about the same size as American Airlines and VA is smaller than BA, but that the small size allows for more innovation and customer focus.

Craig Kreeger (left), Chief Executive of Virgin Atlantic Airways, poses with the cabin crew of the maiden 787-9 Dreamliner flight from Shanghai to London Tuesday at Shanghai Pudong International Airport. Photos: Courtesy of the airline

"In particular, in the UK-US market competition, we have to be, and are in fact, big enough to impress the passengers with our personality and our way of operating," he said. Kreeger is optimistic about VA's ability to compete with their UK-US peers.

When asked about his impression of the cities in China, Kreeger said: "From a business standpoint, Shanghai feels like a vibrant business community. I really have enjoyed that. I have to say, from a tourist perspective, Beijing and the Great Wall are unbelievable. They were my favorite destinations."