SEATTLE — Last Sunday, Virgin Atlantic launched its new service from London Heathrow to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
The daily flight will be regularly operated by a Boeing 787-9, replacing the Boeing 767 service that was operated by Delta Air Lines, a joint partner of Virgin Atlantic.
The upgraded route adds a Premium Economy cabin and 50 additional seats a day, increasing capacity by 18,250 seats per year.
Craig Kreeger, Virgin Atlantic CEO said in a news release, “as the home of Boeing, it only seems right to fly our newest, most fuel-efficient aircraft, the Boeing 787-9 on the London to Seattle route. With Wi-Fi, mood lighting, onboard bar and top of the range in-flight entertainment, whether traveling for leisure or business, we know our customers love to fly on this high-tech aircraft.”
Virgin Atlantic is the latest airline that began a Seattle service. Considering London is Sea-Tac’s largest international market with multiple daily nonstop flights, Kreeger said, “We’re really looking forward to expanding our presence on the West Coast as well as introducing the Virgin Atlantic experience to customers flying between the UK and Seattle.”
Sir Richard Branson, President of Virgin Atlantic, arrived on Monday for the media event to officially kick off the new service; he highlighted that “Seattle has long been on my list of cities to fly to and I’m delighted to launch this new service. As the home to Microsoft, Amazon and of course Boeing, Seattle’s one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. and as a mecca for entrepreneurs and innovators, it’s a perfect fit for the Virgin Atlantic brand.”
During the press conference received the inevitable question about his thoughts on Alaska Airs’ announcement about retiring the Virgin America brand, saying he was prepared to be polite but decided not.
“It’s baffling and sad,” said Branson. “When I sat down with Alaska, I genuinely believed that they would treasure the brand, that they would treasure the people, that they would treasure the product and that they knew what they were buying. They spent $2.6 Billion buying it. And that the last thing they would do would be to rip the heart out of it. Which, effectively, seems like what they decided to do. They got rid of a competitor, but they’re also getting rid of a lot of our staff. It just seems such a waste. I wonder what it was that Alaska bought and why did they bother.”
Whether Alaska Air Group decided to use the name or not, they purchased the airline by contract and agreed to pay $11 million year-licensing-fee until 2040, even if they don’t use the name.
After all, the Port of Seattle is poised to welcome more international travelers with a new International Arrivals Facility. John Creighton, Port of Seattle Commissioner said that the new service “Benefits the economies of both the U.K. and Pacific Northwest and are a testament to the growth in our region.”
The construction of the new premises is set to start later this year, and the facility is scheduled to open in late 2019. It will double passenger capacity and reduce connection times, and gates capable of serving international widebody airplanes will increase from 12 to 20.
Delta plans to use the now freed up Boeing 767 to begin nonstop four-day-a-week seasonal flight from Portland International Airport to London Heathrow Airport. The flight will be launched on May 26, 2017, and continue through October 29.
“The launch of this new service really shows the benefits that our joint venture with Delta brings – we’re able to optimize our routes ensuring we have best brand fit and aircraft to suit the destination,” Kreeger would go on to say at the press conference.
With its daily service to Seattle, Virgin Atlantic now offers service to four destinations in the Western United States, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.