Boeing’s Dreamliner has finally had its maiden commercial voyage, three years later than planned.
The All Nippon Airlines (ANA) flight carried its first passengers from Tokyo to Hong Kong.
The Dreamliner had originally been scheduled for delivery in 2008, but Boeing has suffered a string of setbacks.
Wednesday’s flight was a special charter, with normal services due to start in November.
Problems with the Dreamliner have put its launch behind schedule, the latest being an onboard fire during test flights last November, and the company will hope a successful launch will help put to bed some of the memories of prior setbacks.
Boeing says the twin-aisle, mid-size plane features the industry’s largest windows, with higher cabin humidity and cleaner air – all of which combine to allow passengers to arrive at their destinations more refreshed.
Because of the materials used in construction – carbon fibre rather than aluminium – as well as new engines and aerodynamics, Boeing says the Dreamliner is about 20% more fuel efficient than similarly-sized models flying today.
That would be a big help for airlines coping with the high price of jet fuel, which is usually their biggest single cost.
Boeing plans to make 10 of the planes a month from 2013. But the long delay has hurt its business.
Last week, China Eastern Airlines cancelled orders for 24 Dreamliners, rather than wait for production to pick up.
Boeing has more than 800 orders on its books for the 787 Dreamliner, and the average list price is $201.7m.
Japan, a market in which Boeing dominates rival Airbus, is a major market for the Dreamliner.
ANA will take delivery of dozens more of the aircraft in the coming years.
“For carriers with high operating margins, the 787 is critical for gaining a cost competitiveness,” said Masaharu Hirokane, an analyst at Nomura Holding in Tokyo.