Tom Ot­ley out­lines the past, present and fu­ture of the in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar Dream­liner

Business Traveller (Middle East) - - Contents -

There’s some­thing unique about a brand-new air­craft. It’s not just the fresh-out-of-the box smell, or the sight of an in­te­rior as the de­signer in­tended it, rather than fol­low­ing the wear and tear of hun­dreds of pas­sen­gers. It’s not even the spe­cially se­lected crew ac­com­pa­ny­ing you on the in­au­gu­ral flight, or the se­nior pi­lot cho­sen to fly it home. It’s the difference of ap­proach. Geo­graph­i­cally, this is be­cause you are fly­ing di­rectly from the fac­tory, whether it’s Boe­ing at Everett, Wash­ing­ton, or North Charleston, South Carolina, or Air­bus at Toulouse or Ham­burg. Men­tally, it’s be­cause when you board an air­craft al­ready in ser­vice, your ex­cite­ment will be re­served for the des­ti­na­tion; the aero­plane is just a means of con­vey­ing. Not so with a de­liv­ery. The whole day, week or, in the case of those who’ve planned this event, months and years have been spent look­ing for­ward to this mo­ment, and when the air­craft is new gen­er­a­tion – a B787 Dream­liner, for in­stance – the ex­cite­ment goes up a level.

In part, this is be­cause you have been prepped to no­tice the difference. Both Boe­ing’s Dream­liner, and Air­bus’s an­swer to it, the A350 XWB (Ex­tra Wide Body), of which more later, have been de­lib­er­ately po­si­tioned as New Gen­er­a­tion. The cap­i­tals sug­gest that they have formed a cat­e­gory all of their own, that they are a step change and rep­re­sent a tech­no­log­i­cal leap for­ward. They are made in

new ways from new ma­te­ri­als and prom­ise a new ex­pe­ri­ence for those who fly them or are flown in them. Fol­low­ing years of wait­ing and, let’s face it, years of de­lays, these de­vel­op­ments have been much an­tic­i­pated and, now, here they are.

Boe­ing’s first B787 was de­liv­ered to All Nip­pon Air­ways in 2011 and, since then, more than 600 have fol­lowed. Boe­ing is in­creas­ing pro­duc­tion in its two B787 fac­to­ries in the US to 14 per month. Mil­lions of pas­sen­gers have al­ready flown on them and a fair pro­por­tion may have asked them­selves whether they no­ticed the “pas­sen­ger en­hance­ments” – the fresher air, the larger win­dows, the qui­eter cabin, the mood light­ing, or the slightly in­creased cabin pres­sure that sup­pos­edly lessens the ill ef­fects of long-haul travel and even jet lag. It’s pos­si­ble for fly­ers to de­bate which air­craft they pre­fer – the A350, B787, or the dou­ble-decker A380. But for the ma­jor­ity of air­lines and pas­sen­gers, the A350 and the B787 have trans­formed long-haul fly­ing. And as new vari­ants ar­rive, new routes have opened.

There’s a fair chance that you have al­ready flown on the B787 Dream­liner. It has be­come a sig­nif­i­cant player in many fleets, in­clud­ing those of Air Canada, Air In­dia, Amer­i­can Air­lines, ANA, Bri­tish Air­ways, JAL, LATAM Chile, Nor­we­gian, Qatar Air­ways and United. It is in com­mon use across many long-haul routes. In fact, it was de­signed as a medium-sized, point-to-point air­craft that doesn’t need to go via hubs, and can op­er­ate cost-ef­fec­tively on less pop­u­lar routes. So although Bri­tish Air­ways has 25 of them, as a reg­u­lar flyer be­tween our of­fices in Lon­don and Hong Kong, I know BA will be us­ing its older, and larger, air­craft on routes such as these. (Although that route is twice-daily on ei­ther a B777-300ER or an A380, so no com­plaints there). Much the same prin­ci­ple ap­plies to Emi­rates, which re­lies prin­ci­pally on A380s and B777-300ERs to ferry peo­ple to and from its Dubai hub – although it will join the Dream­liner Club af­ter or­der­ing 40 -10 planes at the re­cent Dubai Air­show (See Air­show fea­ture).

It will come as no sur­prise that, for the air­lines, the rea­son for buy­ing these air­craft is be­cause they are eco­nom­i­cal to run, not be­cause we like large win­dows on a plane. The beauty of the B787 is its abil­ity to fly long dis­tances, cheaply. And it can even can carry a de­cent amount of freight in the hold, helping to pro­vide ex­tra rev­enue for the route. The re­sult is that air­lines make more money on routes for which the air­craft has the ap­pro­pri­ate num­ber of seats, and also have more free­dom to ex­per­i­ment with routes that pre­vi­ously weren’t com­mer­cially vi­able.

Boe­ing po­si­tioned the air­craft as a “hub-buster”, or more pro­saically, as a cat­a­lyst for “net­work frag­men­ta­tion”, mean­ing that the B787 en­ables air­lines to fly be­tween new city pairs eco­nom­i­cally. Air In­dia’s chair­man and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Ra­jiv Bansal, is clear that it has en­abled the air­line “to open nu­mer­ous new and non-stop routes”. For Bri­tish Air­ways a no­table suc­cess has been Lon­don

to Austin, while for an air­line like United it was San Fran­cisco to Chengdu (BA had a B787 on its Chengdu route, but this was dropped in 2017). Qan­tas in­tends to fly one of its new B787-9 air­craft non­stop be­tween Lon­don and Perth in 2018.

Iron­i­cally, although the B787 has cer­tainly served this pur­pose for BA and dozens of other air­lines, it has also al­lowed new en­trants into the mar­ket – most no­tice­ably Nor­we­gian – to of­fer com­pe­ti­tion across the At­lantic at prices that pre­vi­ously would not have been pos­si­ble. Mean­while, a car­rier such as Cathay, which opted for the A350 XWB, has been us­ing its Air­bus planes on new routes like Dus­sel­dorf (since dropped), restart­ing its Hong Kong to Lon­don Gatwick flights, and, next year, us­ing it on new routes such as Dublin and Brus­sels.

There are cur­rently two Dream­liner vari­ants – the B787-8, and the larger B787-9. A new one – the B787-10 – is com­ing in 2018 (the launch cus­tomer will be Sin­ga­pore Air­lines). Ev­ery air­line con­fig­ures its air­craft dif­fer­ently, and so the num­ber of pas­sen­gers that can be car­ried varies. If you want to know who gets the most on, or the fewest, head over to busi­nesstrav­eller.com and our fea­ture The B787: how the air­lines com­pare. (We also have the same for­mat for the A350 and the A380.)

Above: Eti­had Air­ways op­er­ates 18 B787-9 Dream­lin­ers to 17 des­ti­na­tions world­wide.

Main: Boe­ing dis­played its B787-10 at Dubai Air­show 2017

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