EVERETT — American Airlines’ first 787 Dreamliner emerged from a Boeing factory paint shop in the wee hours of Thursday morning. The jet, a 787-8, is expected to be delivered to the Fort Worth-based carrier by the end of the year.
Once delivered, American will become the second Dreamliner operator in the U.S., following United Airlines.
American anticipates operating its initial aircraft on domestic routes between its myriad U.S. hubs early in 2015. But aside from that, very little is known about the airline’s Dreamliner plans.
Its first long-haul destinations, set to begin in the spring of 2015, remain a mystery. Industry watchers believe the fleet will be largely deployed on trans-Pacific routes from its Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles hubs. American has been aggressive in expanding into new Asia markets such as Hong Kong, Seoul, Beijing, and Shanghai which the 787 is tailored for, especially in initial long thin operations.
Its interior trappings are also thus far an unknown. It is assumed that the premium cabin will be based on new AA 777-200 reverse herringbone business cabin, while main cabin will also echo that of the 777 except in a nine-abreast configuration . While many carriers have gone out of their way to promote what’s inside their new Dreamliners months, even years in advance, American has instead kept the cabin configuration a closely guarded secret.
The airline did accept its first 787 training simulators earlier this year, in preparation for delivery. Forty-two of the jets will eventually join American’s fleet, including the 787-8 and the stretched 787-9. It maintains options for up to 58 more.
Yet despite being coy with details, American has been steadily promoting the progress of its first plane as it made its trek through the Boeing factory. Social media posts over the past several weeks have showed the jet in various stages of completion, right up through its completion in the paint shop on Wednesday afternoon.
American has been in the midst of a major fleet renewal program, accepting up to two new aircraft per week. In just two years the carrier has introduced three new types to the fleet: the A321, A319, and 777-300. AA also has twenty-two Airbus A350-900s on order, placed originally by US Airways, which are due to begin arriving in 2017.
Meanwhile American Airlines’ rival United Airlines debuted its latest Dreamliner route earlier this week, now recognized as the world’s longest. The Chicago-based carrier launched the route, Los Angeles to Melbourne, Australia, with a brand-new -9 on the 27th. United was the first North American airline to operate the type, utilizing it for a variety of routes including San Francisco to Chengdu and Los Angeles-Tokyo.
While the two airlines are presently the only U.S. airlines with the jet on order, Delta Air Lines admitted recently that it was considering an order of its own. It already has a number of 787s on order placed by Northwest which have been deferred into the next decade but their status is unclear. Speaking on its third-quarter earnings call, CEO Richard Anderson said the company was considering both Airbus and Boeing for a substantial widebody order expected by year end. The airline is believed to be weighing Boeing’s 787 and 777 against Airbus’ A350 and A330neo.
Separately, the 787 program hit the 200th delivery this week. The airplane was delivered to Doha-based Qatar Airways.