Thomson Airways launched commercial services with the Boeing 787 on Friday, taking 290 passengers from Gatwick to Mahon, Menorca, on the Dreamliner’s maiden UK-operated flight.

Dave Burling, UK managing director of Thomson parent Tui Travel, said the 787 added a key piece to the company strategy of offering upmarket ‘differentiated’ holidays.

The aircraft will be deployed from next month on services to Cancun and Orlando and later to Thailand, Mauritius and the Pacific coast of Mexico.

Burling said: “The Dreamliner is important in differentiating our long-haul holidays. The flight is a bigger part of a long-haul holiday.”

He added: “We are very confident with the product at the other end.” Burling revealed Thomson opened 35 exclusive or differentiated properties in May.

The company describes two-thirds of its mainstream hotel product as ‘differentiated’, a proportion Burling said would increase. More than 90% of hotels in the programme are exclusive to Thomson.

The state-of-the-art Dreamliner is touted to transform long-haul flying because of its fuel efficiency and range, and the comfort it offers passengers.

Thomson Airways had planned to launch its summer 2013 long-haul programme with the 787 on May 1, but only took delivery of the first of its eight Dreamliners at the end of May.

The aircraft was grounded worldwide in January following a battery fire and only resumed flying last month.

Thomson will launch its long-haul 787 programme on July 8 with flights from Glasgow to Cancun and Manchester to Orlando. Gatwick flights will start the following day and services from East Midlands at the end of July.

The airline will add flights to Phuket in Thailand this winter – the first direct flights to the island from the UK – and to Mauritius and Puerta Vallerta in Mexico next summer.

The company has yet to announce plans for other destinations, but the 787 is capable of flying non-stop from the UK as far as Hawaii.

In the meantime, many passengers on Thomson Airways flights around the Mediterranean will get to experience the aircraft as the airline uses short-haul flights to familiarise its crew.

Those aboard on Friday and Saturday had been told in advance they would fly on the 787, but passengers on future short-haul flights will only find out at the airport.

The pilot, Captain John Murphy, told passengers: “This is a historic day for Thomson Airways. You are the first to fly on the 787 in the UK.

“We’ve been modernising our holidays and flights, and the 787 is the most modern aircraft in the world.”