All Nippon Airways (ANA) has returned to Sydney after a 16-year hiatus, operating their Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. A stand-out from any other inaugural flight, the ANA Star Wars jet made its debut appearance in Australia’s largest city to celebrate this special event, as well as the upcoming film. As an avid Star Wars fan, I was compelled to be present for the arrival of this work of art.
As exciting as the prospect of ANA returning to Sydney was, the highlight for me was the aircraft tour shortly after arrival.
After a period of rushing around issuing visitor passes to the media crews, the bus had us out at the runway 15 minutes prior to the arrival of the Star Wars Dreamliner. I was also made aware that people had flocked to the airport to witness this spectacle, with all the usual aircraft spotting areas full. Spotting at Sydney Airport can be a challenge to even the most experienced AvGeek, with runway selections seeming arbitrary at times. Fortunately on this occasion, the plane landed on the runway we hoped for.
As is customary for an inaugural flight, the plane taxied to the gate and received a water cannon salute from the aerodrome fire services.
The press conference consisted of remarks by Sydney Airport Corporation CEO and Managing Director Kerrie Mather, ANA Senior Vice President Kenya Inada, Consulate-General of Japan Masato Takaoka, and Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism and Major Events Jonathan O’Dea. The big talking point of the press conference was the Star Wars livery.
Other, arguably more important, points were centred on the growing tourism and trade between Australia and Japan leading to the potential of ANA to bring an additional 36,000 visitors to Sydney each year.
The scheduling of the flight from Sydney to Tokyo arrives at Haneda at 5:00 am, allowing passengers to get a same-day connecting flight if they desire.
Shortly after the press conference concluded, the Kagami-Biraki ceremony started. This involved cracking open a barrel of sake and sharing it around the room (in R2-D2 themed cups, naturally). Along with this was the cutting of the cake and exchanging of the gifts, during which we were treated to a performance by a Koto ensemble.
After half an hour we were back on the media bus for another adventure down to “Bay 1” where the Dreamliner was parked. The first thing I noticed was the extremely precise work performed to paint this aircraft into the livery which has been a talking point of aviation and Star Wars enthusiasts worldwide. The aircraft is in absolutely immaculate condition on the outside.
As expected, the inside of the aircraft is just as well kept as the outside. The experience began with a Star Wars-themed display on entry along with the Star Wars theme music playing over the 787’s sound system.
The Star Wars Dreamliner features a three-class layout with 48 business, 21 premium economy, and 146 economy seats. The Boeing Sky interior is present as standard, giving the cabin lighting color-changing abilities.
Business class on the Dreamliner features staggered seating in a 1-2-1 arrangement, allowing every passenger to have direct aisle access. Every seat has a large side table which has a reading light, a PC power port, and a USB port which interfaces with the in-flight entertainment system.
The in-flight entertainment system features an 18-inch touch panel LCD screen. One of the biggest advantages to the business class seats is their ability to lie fully-flat.
The Premium Economy section on the ANA 787-9 is a comparatively small section of the aircraft, consisting of only 21 seats arranged in three rows of seven. These seats feature leg rests and foot rests (for those behind the front row), a large table, and a universal PC power port.
As I made further progress through the cabin, the digital window shades dimmed to make the cabin dark. Suspenseful Star Wars music came through the loudspeakers. This revealed the true beauty of Boeing’s “Sky” Interior. A seemingly pre-programmed lightshow commenced in unison with the music. The colors of the ceiling flashed a variety of colors as the music played.
A nice touch by ANA has been to include the R2-D2 headrest covers in the economy cabin. When you see them, you truly know that you are aboard the “Star Wars Jet”. As with the Premium and Business cabins, every economy seat also includes a PC power port along with a USB port.
Not only is it a pleasure to see ANA serving Sydney once again, but electing to use the Star Wars Dreamliner for the inaugural service was a pleasant surprise.
If I plan a trip to Japan, the ANA 787-9 is definitely one of my preferences for getting there. Maybe I’ll be lucky and get the Star Wars jet, who knows?
Story written by Daniel Foster for AirlineReporter. Daniel is an avid aviation enthusiast, photographer, and holds a commercial pilots license. He is currently pursuing his passion for a career in aviation whilst completing a software engineering degree at university.