Several weeks ago, Air New Zealand became the first airline to take delivery of the new Boeing 787-9 — the stretched Dreamliner. With much pomp & circumstance, they took ownership of their “All Blacks” livery aircraft and flew it away back to New Zealand.
Then, just before the end of July, the second 787-9 was delivered to All Nippon Airways (ANA) (JA830A), and it quietly slipped away into the night off to Japan. At the time, it was unknown who might commence 787-9 flights first.
Air New Zealand, being the first to take delivery, did not plan to start their 787 on a new route until October when they would begin service from Auckland to Perth. The Kiwis had decided to operate flights back and forth between New Zealand & Australia to get their crew used to the aircraft (as this is their first 787) and although they were operating flights with crew onboard, there were a few with just friends and family. Despite that, it was ANA who would challenge the spot as first to operate the newest 787 model.
ANA was the first airline to take delivery of the 787-8, and they originally put it to work on domestic flights within Japan. The airline is also now the largest operator of the 787, with a total of 30 in service; 29 of those are the smaller 787-8, which is split between a long-haul configuration and a higher density domestic configuration.
The newest arrival to the fleet is set up in a domestic configuration as well, with a whopping 395 seats onboard. Meant to replace high-capacity 767s in Japan, the new aircraft will run back and forth between the Tokyo Haneda hub and other major Japanese cities like Osaka and Fukuoka. But could ANA get a 787-9 into service before Air New Zealand? You bet!
Before they even took delivery, it was announced that the first real flight of the 787-9 in Japan with passengers would be a special charity flight on the 4th of August. The flight, scheduled to be a round trip to and from Tokyo Haneda, flew by Mt. Fuji and was full of school children from Japan and the United States.
Just three days later, on August 7th in Japan, the aircraft started flying with-in the ANA network, replacing older aircraft.
The first commercial flight of the 787-9 was NH241, departing Tokyo Haneda at 7:25 am local time, heading south towards Fukuoka.
Replacing a 777-200 on this route, it turned around as NH248 and headed back to Tokyo to prep for its next flight. The plane would then fly NH25 & NH30 to and from Osaka’s Itami Airport, and then the fifth and sixth flights of the day were a trip to Matsuyama. A total of six revenue flights were accomplished for the 787 in the first day.
When this schedule was announced, Air New Zealand seemed to be scrambling to get their 787-9 into revenue service, but its first flight won’t be until August 9th. It will commence on an Auckland to Sydney run, replacing a 767.
Although the 787 was designed for very long and thin routes, the Japanese market is a very different beast compared to other places. Later deliveries of the 787-9 to ANA will come in an international configuration with 215 seats in a much more comfortable configuration.
As NH241 took off into the sky, heralding a new beginning for Japanese aviation, we can only look forward to seeing more and more carriers take delivery of this new aircraft.