We were lucky enough to be able to go to a press preview of the event, and as this is such a storied and beloved aircraft we thought we would share the highlights of the day with you.
50 years after the introduction of the 747, many airlines are retiring their 747 fleets as Covid-19 affects passenger demand. Coupled with the efficiency gains of latest-generation A350s and 787s the original Jumbo Jets are positively primitive.
By retiring their 747s, Virgin Atlantic is improving the efficiency of its fleet by approximately 10% – a shockingly big number in the aviation industry, where year on year gains of 1% are big news. Virgin Atlantic has already improved its fleet efficiency by 20% since 2007.
Virgin’s inaugural flights in 1984 were on a 747-200 named Maiden Voyager. Since then, Virgin has operated a total of 30 747s, with the fleet slowly being phased out with just seven left prior to the pandemic.
In total, Virgin has flown between 60 and 70 million passengers on its 747s!
G-VROY, christened ‘Pretty Woman,’ has been parked up in Virgin’s hangar at Heathrow before it flies to its new owners, Atlas Air.
The event started with “bubbles in the bubble,” a champagne reception on the Upper Deck of the aircraft which features an intimate Premium and economy cabin.
After a quick introduction by Charlie Brown (!) and Corneel Koster, Virgin’s Chief Customer & Operating Officer, we were sent off in groups of two to explore the aircraft.
First stop was the crew rest area at the rear of the aircraft, where cabin crew are permitted (and required!) to rest on long flights. It’s definitely more hostel than luxury hotel. Paint me like one of your French girls:
(Masks were worn throughout the event except in photos where more than 2m social distance could be maintained.)
With no passengers, the galleys were empty. Normally you’d find hundreds of meals contained in storage boxes and trolleys here:
We then moved down to ground level, where the scale of the 747 really comes into play:
Virgin’s 747 are kitted out with four General Electric CF6 engines. I’ve always wanted to take a photo inside the engine – it reinforces just how large these behemoths are:
Engine technology has moved on a lot from the 80s tech. Although the outboard engine looks smaller, all four turbines are the same size, with a diameter of 2.36m (93 inches).
Modern twin-jet aircraft like the 787 and A350 have even larger turbines, as you can see here. The 747 CF-6 is on the left, whilst the 787 Rolls Royce Trent 1000 is on the right:
Bigger fans and improved materials mean that latest generation aircraft are 30% more efficient than the 747.
Walking under the aircraft was a unique experience. Fully fuelled, the fuselage sits almost a foot lower than it does here:
…although there’s still plenty of room underneath! Here’s a photo where I’m sitting on one of eighteen wheels on the 747. Bear in mind I’m 6’2″.
This story continues in Part 2 – click here to learn more of Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 747 retirement event.
It will be sad to see the 747s go – but at least they’re leaving in style.
How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (April 2021)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.
You can choose from two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (apply here, one has a bonus of 15,000 Points):
You can also earn Virgin Points from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for a year and comes with 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 20,000 Virgin Points:
(Want to earn more Virgin Points? Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)