Thomson Airways took off with 291 passengers on the first Boeing 787 flight from Glasgow to Cancun on Monday, with a second flight departing Manchester for Orlando minutes behind.

Managing director Chris Browne joined the flight to Cancun, telling passengers: “This is a very proud moment for me.”

Browne ordered the first 787s for the UK 10 years ago as head of First Choice Airways, now part of Thomson, ensuring the company would be the UK launch customer for the Dreamliner.

She told Travel Weekly: “You have to make big, bold decisions and make them early, and it has paid off. I’ll probably start crying. When we started, this [aircraft] was just a drawing on a piece of paper.”

The 787 was delayed by more than two years then in January this year was grounded for three months, putting back Thomson’s long-haul launch date from May 1 to this week.

Browne said: “The delays have made it more special. So many doubters were saying ‘why are you doing this?’ I can’t repeat what I said when the fleet was grounded. There were times I thought, ‘Is this ever going to happen?’ But you have to believe what you’re doing is right.”

However, she insisted: “At no time was the purchase questioned. The thing about aviation is you have to order something for delivery in 10 years. I think we got it right. Customers love it – especially in economy with the extra leg room.”

Thomson stole a march on its competitors with the Dreamliner and now Browne believes the company will reap the rewards. She said: “The benefit in being first was important. It meant we could strike a deal. These things are not cheap despite me doing a great bit of shopping. The list price is £200 million. But you could not get a 787 till 2020 now.”

Dreamliner seats are only available as part of a holiday with the group and Thomson is charging a £10 premium each way to fly on the aircraft.

Browne said: “We’ll maintain the premium as long as we can. We are having a fantastic year and it’s already selling well for summer 2014. It’s proof people are prepared to pay a bit more.

“But the more important thing is that people will choose to fly with us because of this. Why would you fly anything else.”