BA 787-10. Photo: ©Roberto Leiro

LONDON – After months of delay, the first Boeing 787-10 ordered by British Airways (BA) has arrived at London Heathrow (LHR) to begin its commercial service with the airline.

The first 787-10, according to Flightradar24, operated to Heathrow as BA9151.

The aircraft is G-ZBLA (MSN60637 – LN956). The flight was scheduled to leave Charleston (CHS) at 23:30EDT and arrive into Heathrow (LHR) at 11:50BST

A Rising Star

The 787 has been a key part of the British Airways fleet since the arrival of the airline’s first 787-8 in June 2013 (G-ZBJA – MSN38609 – LN108). The airline currently operates 12 787-8 aircraft in a three-class configuration.

British Airways also operates the -9 variant of the 787. The first 787-9 was delivered to British Airways in September 2015 (G-ZBKA – MSN38616 – LN346). British Airways operates 18 787-9s.

However, unlike the -8, its -9s operates in a four-class configuration which offers all of the airline’s long haul cabins (First, Club World (business), World Traveller Plus (premium economy) and World Traveller (economy).

BA’s 25th 787 Dreamliner, G-ZBJI. Photo courtesy of British Airways

Engine Issues

Despite the airline operating 30 787-8s and -9s, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the type.

Following issues with the Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines, the type was grounded for a number of months whilst the airline leased some of Qatar’s (QR) Airbus A330 aircraft as a temporary substitute.

The airline currently has 12 Boeing 787-10s on order. This will increase the number of 787s in the airline’s fleet up to 42 as British Airways begins the modernization of its long-haul fleet.

BA’s 25th 787 Dreamliner, G-ZBJI. Photo courtesy of British Airways

A Few Setbacks

The airline initially announced that the 787-10 would be delivered in January this year with its first route being LHR-Atlanta (ATL)-LHR in February this year.

This was not the case as sources indicate that the aircraft was not marked ready for delivery until May 2020.

Flightradar24 shows that the aircraft was being flown to and from Boeing’s Charleston (CHS) plant for what are assumed to be test flights.

Following the Coronavirus pandemic, Boeing temporarily suspended operations at the 787 production line in Charleston, South Carolina.

Manufacturing at Boeing’s Charleston plant stopped in April and reopened the plant in early May.

In the current times of low passenger numbers and demand, some people may see the introduction of the newer, fuel-efficient 787-10 coinciding with the hinted early retirement of the airline’s aging and uneconomical 747 fleet.

A State of the Art Aircraft

In a statement from the airline, British Airways has said the state-of-the-art 787-10 has a carbon fibre fuselage which allows the pressure in the cabin to be maintained at a lower level.

The internal cabin altitude is the equivalent to 6,000ft.

This leads to a better level of humidity and reduces the drying effect of the cabin air so passengers arrive feeling more refreshed.

It is also claimed that the aircraft is more fuel-efficient and quieter than its predecessors.

The 787-10 will be configured in a four-class configuration (like the smaller 787-9) and will feature eight seats in the First cabin.

The seats in the First cabin are the airline’s newest seat which is currently also available on the 787-9 aircraft.

British Airways First seat – Photo courtesy of British Airways

The seat, initially designed for the 787-9 includes a fixed 23-inch high definition inflight entertainment screen that can be controlled with the handset integrated into the seat.

Despite the refreshed seat in the First cabin, the largest difference compared to the airline’s other long-haul aircraft is seen in the Club World cabin (business class).

The cabin features 48 of the airline’s new Club Suite seat.

The Club Suite is the first regeneration of the Club World cabin since the launch of the Next Generation Club World seat in 2006.

This seat can still be found across the fleet apart from the airline’s new A350-1000.

British Airways Club Suite – Photo Courtesy of British Airways

The Club Suite offers direct-aisle access for all passengers, a privacy door and a fully-flat bed in a 1,2,1 configuration.

The seat also boasts 40% more storage than the previous Club World product and including a vanity unit and mirror, 18.5-ich inflight entertainment screens and PC/USB power, it is certainly an improvement from the previous product.

The World Traveller Plus cabin will offer 35 seats in 2-3-2 configuration whilst the World Traveller cabin offers 165 seats in a 3-3-3 configuration.

British Airways Chairman and CEO, Alex Cruz, said “The delivery of our first 787-10 aircraft marks another significant milestone in our £6.5bn customer investment plan”.

Mr. Cruz said the aircraft delivers a 25% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to the aircraft it replaces. This appears to be another step towards our commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Mr. Cruz also added, “It will also offer greater comfort for our customers, as it features our latest generation seats in all cabins”.

It remains clear that even in a COVID-19-based environment, the airline is still wanting to push ahead with growth plans.

However, news of this may not be welcome amongst staff who are currently facing the prospect of job losses.

It will be interesting to see how British Airways use this aircraft and whether there will be any fallout from this.