Farewell to Virgin Atlantic’s last 747


When Virgin Atlantic announced it was holding a special farewell event to mark the last Boeing 747-400 leaving its fleet,100,000 people applied for a place within a minute of the tickets going on sale. Aircraft Interiors International was lucky enough to secure a place at this special event and explore Pretty Woman (G-VROY), a beautiful airplane. All photos by Adam Gavine

For one day only, on 12 December 2020, those lucky enough to have secured tickets for the Virgin Atlantic 747 experience could explore this beautiful plane at the Heathrow maintenance hangar before she leaves the fleet. G-VROY is being returned to her lessor, Gecas, and is due to make her final departure from London Heathrow on 16th December, to join her new operator, Atlas Air

She certainly is a Pretty Woman. The Boeing 747 fleet has played an important role in Virgin Atlantic’s story. 36 years ago, on the airline’s inaugural flight, a jumbo carried its first passengers to New York. The airline went on to operate 30 B747s

Visitors could walk right around the Virgin Atlantic maintenance hangar at London Heathrow Airport and see the equipment that keeps the fleet safe and efficient

Perfectly formed, and perfectly parked. Pretty Woman joined the fleet in June 2001

Visitors could really appreciate the sheer scale of the Boeing 747 within the confines of the hangar

Pretty Woman is being returned to the lessor, so much effort has gone into ensuring the original GE CF6 engines were taken back to Heathrow for refitting, in the same positions

Fancy playing captain? Slide into the left-hand seat

Not the most luxurious seat on the Boeing 747, but still the best seat in the house

Guests have to resist the urge to adjust the controls: there are some 356 to play with

More of the controls that have been put to use since 2001. More temptation to play pilot

The best view in the 747, and one that many Virgin Atlantic pilots will miss

Guests at the Virgin 747 experience day could try out a special off-limits area: the crew rest. This area is accessed via an unassuming door on the main deck, and a steep set of stairs

We were informed that crew generally favour the lower bunks, but will take whatever is closest to they can maximise rest time

The main deck economy cabin. Just imagine how many people have been transported in these seats, taking them on dream holidays, celebrations and more

The black seatbacks look great and provide a good background for the IFE screens

A little retro entertainment for the day. This IFE screen is from the premium economy cabin in the upper-deck bubble

Back to the hangar, this snappy Snap-On toolbox has a few special features. Maintenance manager Ian French talks guests through the technology

The airline wanted to keep track of its tools more efficiently, so whenever an engineer requires a tool, they have to swipe their access card on a reader to unlock the box. Whenever a tool is removed, the box automatically records what has been removed, when, and by whom

The display shows which tools have been checked out. It is also linked to shift times, so staff are reminded to return their tools to the correct location before they leave. Ian French had better return that flat-head screwdriver

Upstairs again, back in the bubble. These are the best economy class seats on board, with a much smaller seat count than the main deck cabins. Better still, the exit row offers a fantastic amount of legroom

The bubble offers useful extra space to the side for premium economy guests

At the press of a button the lid opens to reveal a large personal stowage space. Premium economy instantly becomes even more premium

Back downstairs again, to the Upper Class cabin in the nose. The bar caused a real stir when it was launched, and you may recall James Bond sitting here enjoying a cocktail with Mathis in the film Quantum of Solace

These panels are an elegant way to visually lower the ceiling above the bar

The Upper Class suite – a space efficient and comfortable herringbone design. Virgin Atlantic has opted for a more conventional in-line suite for the new A350s on fleet

Quite a few household names will have travelled in these seats over the years

The IFE display extends out on an arm when required

The reading lamp is a nice touch, looking more residential in style than aviation

Visitors to the experience day received the latest Virgin Atlantic sustainable amenity kit

A welcome note for a special day

For one day only, on the 12th of December 2020, those lucky enough to have booked tickets for the Virgin Atlantic 747 experience could enjoy breakfast or lunch in Upper Class, with the full crew service

The breakfast was delicious. And the wonderful service reminded us how much we have missed flying in 2020. About those Wilbur and Orville salt and pepper shakers: I have a confession to make…

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About Author


Ever since his first flight on a TriStar, Adam has loved air travel, and since becoming editor of the Aircraft Interiors International brand he has really enjoyed the opportunity to be involved with the latest aircraft and airline products before they are even launched. Adam co-ordinates the running of the magazine, from commissioning articles and artwork, to ensuring that high standards of quality are maintained, as well as managing online content. Adam is proud to sit on the jury of the Crystal Cabin Awards and to have laid on the bed in Etihad's Residence.

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