TORONTO — Air Canada’s first Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner was introduced to the media and Air Canada’s friends, partners, and Aeroplan status members at a special event in Toronto on Tuesday morning.
The aircraft sat gleaming in a hangar in Air Canada’s Maintenance Base at Toronto-Pearson International Airport (YYZ). Not since the introduction of Air Canada’s first 747-100 in the early 1970s has a new aircraft type generated this level of interest and excitement. It was too bad that the yellowish tint of the hangar’s lighting washed out the airline’s unique light blue livery.
The Dreamliner features Air Canada’s new three-class configuration, unveiled on the 787, with a total of 251 seats. The carrier describes its new cabins as “a contemporary, sophisticated design in a palette of slate grey and neutral tones with accents of Canadian red and celeste blue.” The seats are manufactured by BE Aerospace.
The business class cabin has twenty reverse herringbone lie-flat pods, in a 1-2-1 arrangement. In the new layout, the outer pods face the windows instead of the aisle, and the middle two seats face each other. Each comes with its own noise-cancelling headsets, an 18” high-definition touch screen,and a touch-screen remote, accessing the Air Canada’s new “Enroute V2.b” In-Flight Entertainment System (IFE), which is based on Panasonic’s X3 IFE. In addition to the previous systems’ video, audio, games and moving map selections, the new IFE features seat-to-seat chat, shopping and meal menu apps, and accessibility for visually impaired passengers.
The new Business Class pods also feature a unique adjustable pneumatic cushion headrest with a massage feature. Passengers on international flights will also get to enjoy a new espresso and cappuccino service.
Aft of business class and beginning just forward of the wing is the airline’s new “Premium Economy” cabin. The mini cabin has three rows of seats in a 2-3-2 arrangement, each with 38” of pitch and 19.5” of width. The first row of the cabin has 9” IFE touch screens, while the other two rows have larger, 11” screens. Premium economy passengers enjoy premium meals, complementary bar service, and priority check-in and baggage service.
The 787-8’s economy cabin has 210 slimline 17.3”-wide seats in a 3-3-3 configuration. Seat pitch is 31”, and the seats all have a 9” IFE touchscreen. The 787’s have the same seats and pitch as the 398-seat Economy Class in Air Canada’s five unique “High Density” 777-300ERs that the airline currently deploys on specific routes.
The carrier’s other 777s will also eventually receive the same 787-style cabin.
The formal, official inaugural flight for the airplane will take place in two months’ time on July 14, from Toronto (YYZ) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND). This new route for Air Canada was originally scheduled to begin on July 1 with the Dreamliner. However, due to the delayed service entry of the 787, the first two weeks of the route will be served by AC’s 777-300ERs.
The 787s are also scheduled to replace 767s on AC’s YYZ to Tel Aviv (TLV) route in mid-July. Prior to July 14, passengers and planespotters can expect to see the 787s on various routes on a preview basis, including Toronto to Montreal (YUL) and Halifax (YHZ), as well as regularly flying from Toronto to Zurich (ZRH). The YYZ-ZRH route is in place as part of Air Canada’s process to obtain full Extended range Twin-Engine Operations (ETOPS) for the 787 from Transport Canada. Next, on December 1, the 787 will being operating the Toronto to Paris (CDG) route, again replacing 767s.
Over Winter 2014/2015, Air Canada will also replace 767s with 787s on its Vancouver to Tokyo-Narita and Vancouver to Shanghai routes. Their competition in YVR, Japan Airlines and China Southern Airlines already both fly 787s.
This first Air Canada Dreamliner is registered C-GHPQ, and is the 160th aircraft from Boeing’s 787 lines. It rolled out of the Boeing Everett factory on February 4, and performed its first flight on April 22. That flight was cut short due to minor environmental control issues, which were soon resolved after the plane returned to Paine Field. Testing continued successfully, and the aircraft was contractually delivered to Air Canada last week, on May 12. As Air Canada Flight 7008, C-GHPQ flew from Paine Field to YYZ on Sunday, May 18, after a departure celebration at Boeing’s Everett Delivery Center, and a ceremonial handover of “the keys” to Air Canada.
Air Canada’s second and third 787s (C-GHPT & GHPU) are on the Boeing flightline in Everett, although neither aircraft has yet flown. The following three Dreamliners are expected to be delivered in October, November, and December of this year, from Boeing’s Charleston, South Carolina final assembly line.
Air Canada has 15 787-8s ordered, along with 22 of the larger 787-9s. The first two -9s are scheduled to join the AC fleet in 2015, along with another four -8s. All of the 787s are due to be delivered by the end of 2019. As the 787s arrive, up to 20 of Air Canada’s venerable 767-300ERs will be transferred to AC’s low-cost “leisure” carrier, Air Canada rouge.
Air Canada’s introduction of the Boeing 787-8 marks the next step in the airline’s fleet upgrade. Over the next few years, Air Canada will become a major 787 operator, adding 37 planes to the fleet. The airline currently has purchase options and rights for an additional 23 aircraft, bringing the potential Dreamliner fleet to 60 aircraft.
The 23-plane 777 fleet might also grow, if the airline exercises its 10 options for additional aircraft. And in just a few years, the narrow-body fleet will transition from the Airbus A320 series to new Boeing 737MAXs. The airline has ordered 33 MAX8s and 28 MAX9 jets, and it has the rights to swap between the two sizes, along with the MAX7. As part of this 737 order, AC also has purchase options and rights for an additional 48 planes.
This afternoon, the carrier’s first 787 will be up on training flights. The flight crews were understandably somewhat impatient with today’s tours. They wanted to get this beautiful plane into the air! But Air Canada passengers will only have to wait until tomorrow to enjoy the comfort and features of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.