Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner headlined two significant events over the weekend, continuing to move the aviation industry forward. The first 787-10 delivery occurred in Charleston with Singapore Airlines taking ownership of the aircraft. On the other side of the globe a 787-9 departed Perth and arrived in London, launching scheduled nonstop commercial service between the continents for the first time.
Non-stop ‘Roo Route
The 17ish hour nonstop service between Perth and London is the epitome of the “long, thin route” concept that Boeing used to sell its 787 Dreamliner airplanes. It is also historical in terms of connecting Australia and Europe, though it is not the first time a plane flew nonstop between the two. The first Qantas 747-400 delivery flight flew from London to Sydney nonstop but was not scheduled service and the feat would not be repeated. Plus, the eastbound trip is easier with the prevailing winds.
The Qantas Dreamliner to make the maiden journey from #Perth to #London is VH-ZND with Captain Lisa Norman, Captain Jeff Foote, First Officer Dave Summergreene and Second Officer Troy Lane. pic.twitter.com/tgM3Wl93EQ
— Qantas (@Qantas) March 24, 2018
In this case Qantas is also providing some connecting traffic at Perth to help fill the plane. Still, the overall goal is to move passengers more efficiently between London and Australia. There is also potential for a Paris-Perth route launch later this year, though confirmation of that rumor remains lacking.
It is worth noting that this new route ranks among the longest but doesn’t take the top spot. There are several ways to spend that much time on an airplane if you so desire. The “flash” is about connecting Europe and Australia by overflying the connecting hubs in Asia. And the economics of that operation remain uncertain.
#QF9 (Perth-London) is now flying over Dubai.
If you would be flying on #EK421 or #EK425 you would need to land, change flight and refuel in order to continue to London, but not #QF9, it will keep flying for another 7 hours.https://t.co/3HR7rooxbk pic.twitter.com/LRhPmr5tIh
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) March 24, 2018
For travel to and from the major Australian cities on the east coast a connection remains necessary somewhere along the way. Whether that’s a domestic hop to Perth That’s another 5 hours from Sydney, making the total travel time near 24 hours with the connection layover on the best timed schedule. Connecting via Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai or Doha all yield similar travel times, with the trip split more evenly. That may make it harder for Qantas to drive the yield premiums it needs to justify operating the ultra long haul flight.
The –10 Delivered
The 787 family is now complete, thanks to the delivery of the first 787-10 to launch customer Singapore Airlines. The multi-day celebration in Charleston culminated with a delivery flight to Singapore via Osaka. Conveniently Osaka will be one of the first destinations to which Singapore Airlines flies the 787-10, joined by Perth later this Spring.
The –10 is the longest of the 787 variants, some 18 feet longer than the –9. That translates to roughly 40 more seats on board in a typical configuration. Singapore Airlines will use it for “regional” service which covers most of Asia, operating in a two-class layout; no first class suites for the shorter haul flights.
Singapore Airlines is betting big on the –10 for its future operations; the carrier holds orders for 48 more of the type. Its order book represents nearly 30% of the 171 787-10s Boeing sold so far. The planes will replace the A330-300 fleet (currently 22 in operation) and grow the overall aircraft count for the company, allowing for expansion into new markets. The 787-10s carry 337 passengers in the Singapore Airlines configuration (36J/301Y) compared to 285 (30/255) on the A330s. That means a significant capacity boost on the individual routes in addition to the increase in total aircraft in the carrier’s fleet. The A350-900 will also be a significant player in the future fleet, delivering longer range with lower passenger capacity.
The delivery from Charleston is also special, marking the first all-Boeing designed aircraft not delivered from the Seattle area. The 717 delivery from Long Beach, California was mostly a McDonnell-Douglas design. The -10 is built only in Charleston, ostensibly owing to the size of the aircraft and limitations of the assembly line in Everett. The part where the Charleston employees are not unionized also plays in to that decision.
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