Air NZ and ANA Battle to be First to Fly the 787-9 Dreamliner

Air New Zealand and All Nippon Airways will both introduce flights with the Boeing 787-9 early next month, with Etihad Airways, Scoot, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Airways also due to the fly the new stretched variant of the Dreamliner before the end of the year.

Star Alliance member airlines Air New Zealand and All Nippon Airways (ANA) are both claiming to be the first carrier to begin passenger operations using the new stretched Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. They will both introduce flights with the aircraft early next month, with Etihad Airways, Scoot, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Airways also due to the fly the type before the end of the year.

Air New Zealand are the launch customer for the new 787-9 variant and took delivery of the first production aircraft on July 8, 2014 but are currently completing a period of ground tests and training before the type makes its commercial debut. This has been tentatively set for August 9, 2014 on the Auckland – Sydney route and the type will substitute for smaller Airbus A320s or older 767s on the route until making its scheduled debut on the Auckland – Perth route from October 15, 2014.

However, days before Air New Zealand operate their inaugural 787-9 flight, Japanese carrier ANA has confirmed it will operate special flight over Mount Fuji using its first example. The airline will use its experience as launch customer of the smaller 787-8 variant to bring the 787-9 to market earlier and after taking delivery of its first 787-9 on July 27, 2014 will begin flights from August 4, 2014.

"The 787 Dreamliner is a key element in our growth strategy and we are proud to be the first airline to fly both models of the 787 family," said Osamu Shinobe, president and chief executive officer, ANA following the aircraft's delivery flight to Tokyo. "The new 787-9 will build on the exceptional efficiency of the 787-8 and will allow us to meet growing demand that is anticipated ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Our customers have expressed their pleasure with the comfort of the 787's innovative cabin features and we are excited to introduce the new 787 variant into our fleet."

ANA plans to use the next generation airliner to fly Japanese and American elementary school children living in Japan on a flight highlighting the next generation of air passengers. The aircraft will fly from Haneda Airport in Tokyo over Mount Fuji, one of Japan's best known landmarks and newest World Heritage Site.

ANA’s first 787-9 will be delivered with domestic route specifications and will be equipped with 395 seats, 60 more than the 787-8 when flown on domestic routes. The aircraft will begin service on domestic routes from August onwards and, from the next fiscal year in April, 2015 ANA will start to introduce its international versions of the aircraft.  In the international configuration ANA's 787-9s will be fitted with 48 Business Class, 21 Premium Economy and 146 Economy seats.

The Japanese carrier has ordered 80 787s (36 787-8s and 44 787-9s) and already has 28 787-8s in operation. It says fuel savings achieved by its current fleet are sufficient to operate 500 round trips from Tokyo to Frankfurt and are reducing CO2 emissions by 150,000 tonnes a year. The new 787-9 achieves even better fuel economy than the 787-8, according to ANA, recording a 23 per cent improvement versus the older generation 767-300ER. In its domestic configuration it will offer approximately 20 per cent more seating and cargo capacity, resulting in a further reduction in operating costs.

Air New Zealand claimsd it would still be the first scheduled operator of the 787-9, by deploying its aircraft ahead of ANA on a commercial flight, highlighting that the ANA flight is a non-revenue charter flight.  However, in the past 24 hours it has emerged that ANA will actually introduce the 787-9s into scheduled operation from August 7, 2014 on routes from Tokyo Haneda to Fukuoka, Matsuyama and Osaka Itami.  Air New Zealand have still not uploaded its initial 787-9 inventory into the GDS so there remains every chance it could bring forward the aircraft's introduction by a few days.

After its initial introduction on flights to Australia, Air New Zealand will deploy the 787-9 on routes to Shanghai, China (from November 30, 2014) and Tokyo, Japan (from November 14, 2014) after accepting its second and third aircraft towards the end of the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter.

United Airlines is due to use its 787-9s to re-introduce non-stop flights between Los Angeles and Melbourne after a five and a half year gap. It will deploy the aircraft on the route from October 26, 2014 but before that will initially use the aircraft on Los Angeles – Houston and Houston – Newark domestic rotations from September 20, 2014 for crew training purposes, as well as Los Angeles - Denver in November and December.  As additional aircraft arrive United has also confirmed the 787-9 will replace 787-8s on its Los Angeles – Shanghai route from March 5, 2015, initially on a four times weekly basis but growing to a daily schedules from May 8, 2015.

Virgin Atlantic Airways will be the first European operator for the 787-9 and will debut the type on its London Heathrow – Boston route from October 28, 2014 before also using the aircraft on routes from the UK capital to Washington from December 17, 2014 and New York from February 28, 2015.

Etihad Airways will launch scheduled operations with the 787-9 in December, initially with a daily flight between Abu Dhabi and Dusseldorf from December 1, 2014 and training flights between Abu Dhabi and Doha during the remainder of the month. The aircraft will also be used on services from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) capital to Mumbai and Washington from January 1, 2015 and to Brisbane and Moscow from June 1, 2015.

Asian long-haul, low-cost carrier, Scoot will also receive its first 787-9 this year with delivery scheduled for November. It has not yet confirmed its proposed operational plans for the aircraft but it will likely make its debut on routes to Australia, Japan and Taiwan by simply substituting for the carrier’s existing 777 fleet.