New Virgin Atlantic boss Craig Kreeger backs Boeing’s Dreamliner hopes


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The Independent Online

The new boss of Virgin Atlantic has thrown his backing behind Boeing, whose flagship new Dreamliner jet has been grounded worldwide since January.

Virgin made one of the largest single orders for the 787 by European airlines when it bought 16 of the aircraft, with options for eight more and purchase rights on a further 20 in a deal worth up to $8 billion (£5.3 million).

But the 787 has been grounded for almost three months, after a series of incidents with its batteries, including a fire and a forced emergency landing, saw aviation safety boards stop the Dreamliner from flying.

Boeing is currently submitting data to safety experts about a battery fix which it hopes will allow the Dreamliner back in the air, and Virgin’s new chief executive Craig Kreeger, pictured,  said: “Boeing is confident they will be back flying soon, and I’m beginning to share its confidence that our deliveries will be on time.” Virgin is due to receive the aircraft from summer 2014.

Kreeger said, when asked about Boeing’s reputational damage, that he  would still consider them for possible future plane orders.

He added that he hopes to steer Virgin Atlantic to profitability in the next financial year, giving him just under two years to turn around what’s expected to be a loss of some £135 million in the year to March. “We’ll be more fuel-efficient thanks to new aircraft, have better connectivity thanks to Delta [a planned transatlantic tie- up is seeking regulatory approval] and Little Red [Virgin’s new domestic arm], and I think the economy will improve too. Even a little hint of recovery will help.” 

Kreeger, 53, joined Virgin in February after a career at American Airlines. He said  he hoped to steer Virgin for years to come, adding: “I hope this is my last job. And I’m still pretty young."