Double Dreamliner celebration weekend

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.

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.

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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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Both are pretty significant in their own respects. I have been watching the 10s on the flight line. I saw the Singapore bird parked at the delivery center yesterday evening on the way home from work. I so wish I could have gone to the ceremony. Pretty awesome to have a model that can only be assembled here. I thought that was because one of the sections was too large for the Dreamlifter, though I am sure the other financial considerations help as well.

    1. Agreed both are significant. Not sure either is a watershed moment for the industry as opposed to incremental improvements, but both worth knowing about.

  2. I think the non-stop UK-Oz isn’t that much of a big deal for passengers. Unless they live in, or travel to Perth, it’s just another one (or two) stop service to their destination.

    If I need to connect, it doesn’t matter where I do it.

    What’s significant is how many city pairs, worldwide, it has deemed itself worthy of flying… almost like a hub buster, so to speak.

    1. Completely agreed on the connection aspect. And there’s the part where, given a 24-26 hour trip, many (most??) passengers will choose a pair of 12 hour flights over 17 & 7.

      The 787 has definitely helped some airlines overfly hubs more than in the past. So has the A350. So with the A330neo and other future aircraft. Even the A321LR and 737MAX will deliver that, just on a smaller scale. But, even with the improved operating economics versus prior generations of planes, I’m not so convinced that the hub-and-spoke model is going to die. It is ridiculously efficient for many city pairings and takes advantage of the same lower operating costs for new generations of planes.

    2. Seth Miller , I’m on the same train of thought. I’m fine with the hubs. There’s usually more services, amenities, and certainly travelers are in better shape in/out of hubs in irregular operations.

      I just like the new thinking with these more efficient planes and how they are either more daring to try new routes, or that the numbers just justify them to the decision makers. Whatever the backroom causes are, I’m loving the effects.

    1. Because the plane can’t go any further without significant weight restrictions. The hope is to mostly pull west coast traffic, plus a bit of connection from the big cities out east. And potentially in a few years with another round of aircraft improvements maybe London to Sydney or Melbourne. But the current planes don’t have the range to make that financially viable.

    2. Perth is still a city of 2+ million people, has a lot of British expatriates, and pulls from the rest of Australia. The flight routes Melbourne-Perth-London anyways. About 60% of the traffic originates in Perth, 40% in the rest of Australia. I would imagine this flight would stay even after Qantas begins nonstop flights from the East Coast to London.

  3. You could almost say it was a triple Dreamliner Event across all three 787 varients with Air India flying over Saudi Arabia to arrive at Israel. Though that was more diplomacy than 787 tech…

  4. QF flying nonstop to the UK is a big deal. The 787-10 isn’t a major game changer. Of course it is more fuel-efficient and will help airlines cut costs, but it won’t make plenty of new routes possible as the 787-8 and 787-9 due given its larger size and shorter range.

    1. But how big a deal is it? From a passenger perspective how many really save time?

      Agreed that the -10 doesn’t open new routes. But it does shave costs on existing ones.

    2. For 787s look at how UA has been using each variant. 787-8 opens smaller long-haul routes like DEN-NRT, SFO-CTU, SFO-PPT. 787-9 opens ultra-long-haul routes like SFO-SIN, LAX-SIN< IAH-SYD. 787-10 will mostly replace older 777s and 767s on core transatlantic routes.

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