EVERETT — Xiamen Airlines took delivery of its very first wide-body jet, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, on Friday. The airplane is outfitted for a passenger count of 236; four first class, eighteen business class, and 214 economy seats.
First class is configured 1-2-1 across with the Zodiac Apollo seats. Each is lie-flat with 6.4 feet of leg room, and a 15.4 inch wide screen. Business is also set up in a 2-2-2 across.
The eighteen seats are split between a cabin of two rows and second, smaller cabin of only one row. The product is Zodiac’s Aura Lite. Economy will be arranged in a 3-3-3 configuration with 33 inches of pitch each and a 9-inch touchscreen. All seats appeared to have at least one power & USB port. The IFE system will run on Panasonic’s eX3 system.
The airline will fly the jet home to China on Saturday. Like many first-time operators, the carrier will utilize the aircraft on domestic routes before transitioning to long-haul down the road. Initial schedules will see the jet operating between Xiamen, Fuzhou, and Beijing in the first weeks of September.
Xiamen President Che Shanglun says the Dreamliners will be used to replace the carrier’s fleet of Boeing 757-200s, which currently operate near-international routes to southeast Asia, as well as Seoul, South Korea, and Osaka, Japan. Presently the carrier operates only domestic Chinese and regional international routes, primarily with Boeing 737s.
The addition of Dreamliners to its fleet brings the capability to expand beyond its current perimeter. Indeed the carrier’s own press release noted that it expects to deploy the jet to Australia, Europe, and North America.
But Mr. Shanglun wouldn’t was reluctant to share any details on exactly where or when such expansions might take place. “That’s top secret,” said Mr. Shanglun, adding that it will be taking “measured steps” toward a more global network in the coming years. Likely destinations, at least for North America, could include New York City, which has a heavy concentration of Chinese from the Fujian region where the carrier is based.
The carrier has five more 787s on order, expected to be delivered by the end of 2015. It also has a number of 737s, including the MAX 8, on order as well. The new jets will contribute to a 200-plus strong fleet by 2020. China Southern owns a 51% majority in Xiamen.