What looked to be the first true spring day here in Toronto, March 31, was the day Hainan Airlines finally inaugurated their 787 service to Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ). They started operating the route in 2010 with three ex-Cathay A340-600s (B-6508, B-6509, and B-6510, if anyone is interested).
Throughout the years the airline has had its ups and downs (such as varying frequency from 3x weekly to once per week) on the route. However, with the 787, Hainan will go daily this summer, a huge improvement to the Beijing-Toronto route. Hainan was also originally supposed to fly the 787 into YYZ starting May 1, but pushed it up to the earlier date in late February.
The Hainan Toronto crew were kind enough to arrange an exclusive tour for me on their big day of receiving the 787 at their base. Here is a rundown of what happened during that tour.
After talking to a few people and gathering some information, Flight HU7975 landed on Runway 23, and we were able to see it taxing in the distance. At this time, everyone associated with Hainan starting getting quite excited and pulling their cameras and phones out.
I was told earlier that the flight would have a water cannon salute upon entry of the apron. Once it was taxiing, I hopped in a car with an airport security guard and he drove me to a nice spot on the apron, with cargo pallets to stand on with several other Hainan employees. It was an amazing sight to witness.
The 787 was finally on the apron. Having gotten my first glimpses, I hopped back into the security car and hurried to the gate before the airplane itself would pull in; luckily I made it.
The plane pulled in to the Hainan crew holding a banner welcoming the flight. The crew were all smiles and full of excitement.
After doing a brief walk-around of the aircraft, I became intrigued by the engines, capturing a shot of the cool-down of one of the aircraft’s GEnx jets.
After cabin cleaners finished, I got to go inside the aircraft for a photo opportunity. Economy class is a standard 3-3-3 configuration, similar with other 787 operators. The cabin featured idling blue mood light, roomy overhead bins, and their quite-likable entertainment system.
The cabin color is abundantly red, quite associated with Hainan Airlines, or China itself for that matter. The seats have a pitch of 32 inches and a width of 17 inches. When I sat down, the seats were quite comfortable with a good amount of leg space. However, being 6′-5″, I’d probably have a little trouble staying comfortable for a 13-hour flight to Beijing.
I had a quick glance at the second section of the business class cabin, although I wasn’t approved to sit in one of the flat-bed seats (not really sure why). With a pitch of 74 inches and a width of 22.5 inches with and amazing amount of leg room, they looked to be comfortable enough to be categorized as business class.
Economy and Business share the same entertainment system with 15-inch personal screens at each seat. Fares in business for YYZ-PEK-YYZ go for about $1500-2200CAD, which is not a bad deal.
I got a quick glance of the flight deck and found that the First Officer was doing the weight calculations.
I then walked back to Economy and sat down for two minutes at a window seat, only to receive a surprise. BA parked their 787 (G-ZBJB) right next to Hainan’s at Terminal 3! The shape of the wing…lovely.
After taking a break of about 45 minutes while passengers boarded, it was time finally for departure. Push-back commenced and I got into another security escort to follow the 787 as it taxied to the threshold of Runway 23 for departure.
Before the taxiing away, I got a wave from the first officer. Kind of him to do that for a nice photo opportunity, on a glorious occasion!
Soon, HU7976 was about to turn on taxiway Hotel to taxi down to Runway 23, with a British Airways 747-400 in the background. I could only imagine that the BA crew was admiring the Dreamliner.
The aircraft is seen here lining up on Runway 23 from taxiway Quebec. Moments later, it was cleared for takeoff and thundering down the runway it went.
Of all airside tours I’ve received at YYZ, this one was by far the best. Again, I must say a big thank you to the Hainan management here in Toronto for allowing such a opportunity. The 787 itself has become quite the icon for them and they are really proud of it. I’d love to fly on one, one day!
Specs of this particular tour:
Route: Beijing PEK-Toronto YYZ-Beijing PEK
Flights: HU7975 PEK-YYZ, HU7976 YYZ-PEK
Aircraft: B-2731, L/N131
Configuration: 36 Business Class seats and 177 economy seats
This story was written by Philip Debski for AirlineReporter.com…