Virgin Atlantic Inaugurates New Mumbai Dreamliner Service

Virgin Atlantic began flying to Mumbai at the end of October this year. The first flights have been met with typical Indian warmth and hospitality, with their 78,690 additional winter seats a welcome addition in the wake of the loss of Jet Airways. We take a look at Virgin’s new Mumbai flights, and how they launched the service.

Virgin 787
Virgin’s 787-9 has started flying to Mumbai. Photo: Virgin

Virgin’s Mumbai route inauguration

While some airlines like to make a loud noise on their very first flight of a route, Virgin Atlantic like to do things a bit differently. The UK airline prefers to take a little time over its inauguration of routes, giving themselves a couple of weeks to make sure everything is running like a well-oiled machine before the spotlight is turned on.

This is why, although the flights to Mumbai began at the end of October, Virgin Atlantic is just celebrating its new route now. We say ‘new’, but actually Mumbai is a route restart, after Virgin cut its service there over four years ago.

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Virgin Atlantic stopped flying to Mumbai four years ago. Image: GCMap

The flights between London Heathrow and Mumbai are operated on a Boeing 787-9 aircraft, with a daily service linking the two cities. It’s the third new destination that Virgin announced this year, with Tel Aviv and Sao Paulo previously revealed. EVP of commercial at Virgin, Juha Jarvinen commented in a press release,

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“Along with our long-standing route to Delhi, we are now able to provide travelers with an increased offering to the thriving Indian market and an opportunity to experience our award winning service between the UK and India. Together with our partners at Delta, we offer an excellent choice of connections to the USA via Heathrow Airport.”

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G-VCRU performed the first Mumbai flight. Photo: John Taggart via Wikimedia

The 787-9 Dreamliner offers 31 Upper Class seats, 35 Premium seats and 198 in economy. All seats have large touchscreen entertainment screens and complimentary food and drink on board. The first Dreamliner to touch down in Mumbai was G-VCRU Olivia Rae, a 4.2 year old aircraft that has been with Virgin since September 2015.

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A very Indian welcome

The inaugural flight to Mumbai was a very Indian affair from start to finish. At Heathrow Indian dancers welcomed passengers boarding the flight to Mumbai. On board the aircraft, a number of Indian dishes were offered to passengers, alongside the usual British fayre typical of the airline.

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Dancers greeted passengers as they boarded the flight. Photo: Virgin

On arrival in Mumbai, passengers were greeted by representatives of the airport with flowers and traditional dress.

Virgin mumbai welcome
A warm welcome to Mumbai. Photo: Virgin

The aircraft too was welcomed to India in a very traditional way. To mark the occasion, a coconut, said to be the favorite food of Ganesha, was broken in front of the Dreamliner, and a flower garland was bestowed upon its landing gear.

Virgin Mumbai coconut
A traditional coconut ritual for Olivia Rae. Photo: Virgin

Virgin has arranged its flight timings for the Mumbai trip with easy connections in mind. Eastwards, the flights depart London at 10:30 in the morning, giving passengers an easy trip that arrives at 1am, helping them to avoid too much jet lag from the trip. Although the return flight has an awkward departure time of 03:00, its arrival at Heathrow of 07:15 is the perfect window to connect onward with flights to North America.

Still room for more Mumbai flights

Following the demise of Jet Airways earlier this year, the number of seats between London Heathrow and Mumbai has declined substantially. According to Anna Aero, In winter 2018, some 555,000 seats were offered, compared to just 359,000 right now.

Alongside Virgin’s new Mumbai service, Air India and British Airways have both increased capacity on the Mumbai flights to pick up some of the slack left by Jet’s departure. Between the three airlines, some 120,000 additional seats have been added, but there are still 35% less than there were last winter.

This means there’s still room for another new entrant to the market, perhaps IndiGo? Or for increased capacity from any one of these currently serving airlines.

Have you tried out Virgin’s Mumbai service yet? Are you planning to soon? Let us know in the comments!

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Owen Berkeley-Hill

From experience, I prefer a night flight leaving LHR around 9pm in order to arrive at around midday when Mumbai airport is, perhaps, at its quietest. I have avoided arriving around midnight because this way the rush hour for incoming international flights, resulting in interminable circling for a landing slot and immigration and baggage reclaim in overload mode.