TUI Travel UK leisure carrier Thomson Airways has been told by Boeing that it will be the European launch customer for the Boeing 787.
Thomson Airways already knew it would launch the 787 in the UK market when its first delivery arrives in January 2012, but it was competing with LOT Polish Airlines to be the European number one.
Delays to the 787 programme and the subsequent reshuffling of deliveries mean it has been difficult to tell which of the two carriers would be first to take the aircraft. But speaking during a media briefing at the Farnborough air show, TUI Travel chief executive Peter Long said: "Boeing did say, last night, that not only would we be first in the UK, but also first in Europe."
Thomson Airways' 787 cabin configuration has yet to be finalised. Long says the seating pitch will be no less than 33in (84cm), in line with its current fleet, but questions remain over whether it will offer a premium economy cabin because of a revamp of UK aviation tax.
Under the existing per-passenger air passenger duty, premium cabin passengers pay more tax. But Long is backing a proposed change to a per-aircraft levy, which would reward efficient aircraft operating with high load factors. Thomson Airways' average load factor is around the 90% mark.
"If we are not listened to, we will not run two cabins because it will not make sense," says Long. "We are lobbying now to see if we can overcome this. It is clear what we are going to do if we do not get the right outcome. Our passengers should not be penalised for increased leg room - this is not business class."