MIAMI — British Airways debuted its new Boeing 787 Dreamliner on its first long haul trip yesterday, operating between London Heathrow and Toronto Pearson.
The flight marks the first regularly scheduled Dreamliner service for the UK flag carrier, to be joined by service to Newark on October 1st. The flight also marks the beginning of the end for many of BA’s twenty-one Boeing 767s, which are slated for replacement and/or retirement as the tech-heavy and comparatively extra-efficient Dreamliners enter service with the carrier through the next several years.
While British may have only just started long haul service yesterday its 787s are hardly new to the skies. The airplanes – BA has two so far and twenty four on order – have been popping up across a mish-mash of western European destinations since delivery in late June. Its been spotted in locations from Kent and Edinburgh in the UK to Chateauroux in France. These crew-only short haul trips have been geared toward allowing pilots to build hours at the controls, as well as provide opportunities for crews to trial a number of operational procedures specific to the jet – never mind working out any kinks.
Beyond proving and training flights the plane has also already seen revenue service thanks to a gradual introduction to the fleet since delivery in June of 2013. On August 9th a BA Dreamliner appeared unannounced to the gate on a regularly scheduled passenger flight between London Heathrow (LHR) and Stockholm Arlanda (ARN) in Sweden. The plane has continued to fly LHR-ARN off and on since, with the airline touting them as real world crew training. While wordy trip reports on these flights have been scarce, the airplane has received a generally warm reception from a number of folks posting on the popular frequent flyer site FlyerTalk.
The Dreamliner received a moderated welcome to Toronto on Sunday afternoon, with the airplane touching down just after 3pm local time. A small group of employees greeted the aircraft with excitement as it pulled up. Passengers from the flight to London appeared pleased with the experience, with many making sure to snap a few shots from the jetway before continuing onward.
For outgoing passengers the carrier prepared a small, relatively muted celebration with a table full of hors d’oeuvres, cake, and juice. There were no speeches and, sadly, no water cannon salute. With the A380 LHR-LAX inaugural just three weeks away on September 24, the larger 787 events are being planned for the Newark launch post-A380.
Despite the somewhat muted affair, it isn’t the first time the plane has seen some love from its new owners. A nod to the plane’s engine manufacturer Rolls Royce, a 787 flew in tandem with a British WWII airborne icon -the Spitfire fighter plane – over the company’s Derby manufacturing and design plant in early August. Later, taking full advantage of celebrity sex appeal, the airline invited English fashion model and television personality Lisa Snowdon on board for a test run and photo shoot to promote the airplane (along with a refreshed Club World business class cabin).
Speaking of cabin, BA has chosen a three class cabin for the 787-8s. Consisting of World Traveler and World Traveler Plus (BA’s economy and premium economy cabins) along with a Club World business cabin, the airplane seats a total of 214 (35J, 25Y+, 154Y). Notably the airplane lacks the carrier’s well regarded signature first class product. This appears to be a tie-in to the 767 replacement plan, as none of BA’s 767s have an F class either. Boeing 787-9s will also be joining the fleet in coming years, though no decision on a cabin configuration has been publicly announced.
Looking down the road British’s long term plans for the 787 remain a work in progress. On one hand the carrier has repeatedly stated that the type will serve as a 1:1 replacement for the aging and comparatively inefficient Boeing 767s presently in the fleet. Present actions, like placing available 787s on markets/specific routes currently served by three class 767s, certainly bolster that. Plus, given the average age of the BA 767 fleet (a smidge over 20 years) it certainly makes sense to begin shedding older frames.
Meanwhile, on the other, BA CEO Keith Williams told Bloomberg on July 5th that the carrier intended to utilize the plane to open new untapped markets – particularly in Asia (historically a weak spot for British outside of the former colonies). As of print time BA has not provided comment to Airchive, but certainly the 787 is uniquely positioned for start-up routes in emerging markets given its significant cost-saving efficiencies.
Add in that the carrier has opted to forgo an F class cabin – a feature saved for its largest airplanes and generally between high-yield premium trunk/legacy routes, and there certainly exists the potential for some serious flexibility to give new places a try. There is, of course, no reason the Dreamliner can’t do both: unconfirmed leads have indicated that British may begin adding new Dreamliner specific destinations in a few years. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Don’t forget to check back Tuesday, late afternoon west coast time, for our British Airways 787 flight review.