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How the Boeing 787 is Opening New Air Markets

The past decade has been characterized by rapid globalization and technological innovation. As more and more people are traveling across oceans and continents for business, tourism, diplomacy and pleasure, there is an increased need for airlines to develop stronger international route networks. One aircraft that has been instrumental in the growth of the global air transport industry is the Boeing 787. Traditionally, long-haul international flights only connected the huge “mega cities” like London, New York and Hong Kong. Due to its relatively small size and amazing fuel efficiency, the 787 makes it possible to directly connect small to medium size cities that are thousands of miles apart. Introduced into service in 2011, the Boeing 787 was developed primarily to replace the airlines’ aging Boeing 767s that are used on busy domestic routes and flights to smaller long-haul markets. Instead of just replacing the 767, the 787 “Dreamliner” offered huge improvements in terms of efficiency, cabin comfort, and its range of almost 8,000 nautical miles. Despite some initial problems stemming from a battery issue, the 787 has been hugely successful. Over 250 aircraft have been delivered thus far and airlines have a further 1,100 of the type on order. In fact, almost every major international airline has placed an order for at least a few 787s or Airbus’ similar aircraft, the A350. Compared to most other long-haul aircraft, the Boeing 787 is relatively small, holding just over 200 passengers in a standard 3 class configuration. This, however, does not mean that its range is limited. In fact, the aircraft can fly between almost any 2 cities in the world. This allows the airlines to serve far-away destinations without worrying about selling the 400+ seats each day required by typical “jumbo jets” like the Boeing 747 or 777. For example, British Airways has stated that the only way they are able to serve Austin, Texas directly from London is because of the 787’s unique size characteristics. Some other such routes include ANA’s service from Tokyo to San Jose, California; United’s direct flight from San Francisco to Chengdu, China; and Ethiopian Airlines’ new route from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Dublin, Ireland and on to Los Angeles.
My first B787 flight. I took All Nippon Airways (ANA) from Singapore to Tokyo-Haneda last year. (Photo by Kyle Dunst)

My first B787 flight. I took All Nippon Airways (ANA) from Singapore to Tokyo-Haneda last year. (Photo by Kyle Dunst)

The 787 has even presented opportunities to form brand new airlines. For example, Norwegian Air Shuttle, a European low cost carrier, has created a long-haul subsidiary that solely operates 787 aircraft. The airline connects European cities with places like Bangkok, Ft. Lauderdale and Oakland, California. Routes like these would never be possible with the traditional “jumbo jets” since there would simply be too many seats to fill on a very niche service. The airline will operate a total of 21 Boeing 787s once the final aircraft are delivered in 2018. This business model isn’t only successful in Europe. Scoot, an offshoot of Singapore Airlines, has formed an airline centered around the Boeing 787. The airline will operate 20 of the type on long-haul routes to, from and within Asia. Some routes include flights to Singapore from smaller cities in China (Qingdao, Shenyang, Tianjin, and Nanjing) and Australia (Gold Coast and Perth). Before the 787, passengers would have had to make an extra connection in a city like Shanghai, Beijing, or Sydney.
The B787 has allowed China's Xiamen Air to finally begin long-haul operations. Before, they only operated routes within China and Asia using B737 aircraft.

The B787 has allowed China's Xiamen Air to finally begin long-haul operations. Before, they only operated routes within China and Asia using B737 aircraft.

The characteristics of the Boeing 787 are going to be crucial in solving the capacity issues currently faced at the world “mega-hubs” like London-Heathrow, New York’s JFK International, and Los Angeles (LAX). In the past, passengers going anywhere were forced to connect in airports like these. As a result, they are operating at full capacity and subject to frequent delays and strict schedules for the airlines. Now, with an aircraft like the B787, airlines can efficiently and profitably overfly these hubs and offer direct service between smaller cities. Eventually, this will lead to lower fares for customers and higher profits for the airlines. Twenty years ago, it would have been unheard of to be able to purchase a ticket on a direct flight from Boston to Tokyo or Oakland to Copenhagen for $1,000 or less. Not only is the Boeing 787 going to improve profitability for the airlines and efficiency for passengers, but it is going to play an increasing role in improving global relations. Directly connecting smaller cities across the globe will allow for new business opportunities, will make it easier for people to visit families and friends abroad, and may even allow countries to become friendlier with each other as they form closer relationships. As smaller cities gain additional access to international customers, they will experience boosts in their economies and add additional job opportunities. All of these great things are possible due to innovations in today's airline industry such as the Boeing 787. What are some other routes that you think will be served in the future using the B787?

4 Comments

  1. Andy Cruickshank Andy Cruickshank
    May 21, 2015    

    Kyle
    I think BA plans to upgrade the KAUS-EGLL to a 777 later this year because demand is strong.
    Houston to Sydney or Melbourne has been discussed as well as Houston Auckland (ANZ start that with 777 later this year).
    Boeing has a cool site that shows where all the 787s are in the air Lots and Lots!. Also interested that Ethiopian has so many and flies to so many places. They have been a leader in African aviation for many years

    • Kyle Dunst Kyle Dunst
      May 22, 2015    

      @Andy I love that Boeing site! It’s crazy to see how many 787s are actually out there flying already. I agree with you on the flights to Australia. It seems like a pretty under-served market. It would also be cool to see direct flights from the U.S. to Southeast Asia (Singapore, Bangkok, Indonesia, etc.).

      • Andy Cruickshank Andy Cruickshank
        May 23, 2015    

        Kyle. We were recently in Auckland returning from a vacation in NZ. We were early for our flight to HNL and saw some Emirates crews moving through the airport. Looked like a lot of pilots and FAs, so I investigated further. They have 3 x A388 flights to Dubai that all leave within an hour or so and go to MEL or SYD or BNE before going on to Dubai and beyond. Seems like a lot of capacity for a country of 4.5 m people!

        • Kyle Dunst Kyle Dunst
          May 25, 2015    

          That is crazy. As far as I know, Emirates can sell tickets for just the AKL-Australia segments. Seeing 3 Emirates A380s lined up (somewhere other than Dubai) has to be a cool sight.

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About Kyle

I am a recent college graduate with a degree in Aviation Management. I spend my time as an airline industry professional, private pilot, blogger and world traveler. I have visited 36 countries to date and don't plan on slowing down. This blog is my way of sharing the latest developments in the airline industry as well as experiences from my world travels. All views and opinions are strictly my own.

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