Over five years since Qantas expected to commence Boeing 787 flights, its low-cost offshoot Jetstar this week launched the Dreamliner onto its first international flight between Melbourne and Bali.
Jetstar's first Boeing 787 will spend the summer plying on this popular holiday route as flight JQ35, following a month-long series of domestic flights between its Melbourne base and the Gold Coast and Cairns.
Additional Boeing 787 routes are being rolled out as more Dreamliners join the Jetstar fleet – including Sydney-Bali from January 15th 2014, Sydney-Phuket from February 3rd and Brisbane-Bali from April 16th.
There's also a month-long trans-Tasman 787 service between Melbourne and Auckland, from February 26th to March 28th.
Jetstar says its has no doubt that the Dreamliner will be a major drawcard for international travellers, just as it has been on the recent domestic flights.
A Jetstar spokesman told Australian Business Traveller that the airline saw "strong demand for its domestic Boeing 787 Dreamliner services between Melbourne-Cairns and Melbourne-Gold Coast throughout the last month."
"Fares moved particularly fast when we first put domestic services on sale in early October with more than 500 seats sold in the first 48 hours."
Why travellers love the Boeing 787
Along with greater fuel efficiency and a reduced noise footprint compared to conventional aircraft, the Boeing 787 packs with a bevy of passenger-friendly features including a larger and more spacious cabin with more room for carry-on luggage, a quieter smoother ride, plus an effective lower cabin altitude and increased humidity to reduce the effects of jetlag.
Feedback from passengers cited the larger tinted windows, low noise and overall sense of space in the cabin as highlights of the domestic Dreamliner flights.
The 787's cabin altitude – which is set to 6,000 feet above sea level, instead of the usual 7,500 to 8,000 feet on conventional jets – also made for a more comfortable ride, with one passenger noting "no sore eardrums going up or coming down."
Aaron Bradford, who travelled on Jetstar's inaugural Melbourne-Gold Coast service, says the Boeing 787 will shine on Jetstar's long-distance international flights.
"To be quite honest, there's not a whole lot of difference on short-haul flights" Bradford told Australian Business Traveller.
"By and large the 787 is a medium-to long-haul machine and I can definitely see the higher humidity and increased cabin pressure taking a part in making the journey more comfortable for flights of five hours or more."
"However, I'd still take the Boeing 787 over an Airbus A320 or A330 aircraft any day of the week" he added. "It's a new world."
A dream to fly, say pilots
Jetstar's pilots say the Dreamliner is a dream to fly, and continues to delight them every time they get behind the stick.
"The larger displays make it a lot easier for a pilot – the instrumentation is very clear and easy to read, so it's less fatiguing to fly" says Captain Jeremy Schmidt, who heads Jetstar's Boeing 787 flight operations.
Having flown Jetstar's first 787 at Boeing's Dreamliner facility in Seattle, on the delivery flight to Melbourne, on aviation safety authority proving flights and Jetstar's domestic runs, Schmidt was also in the jump seat for the Dreamliner's Melbourne-Bali inaugural.
So does he sometimes pinch himself to be flying the Boeing 787?
"Absolutely", Schmidt says. "I still notice the lower cabin altitude and increased humidity, so I get off the flight feeling fresher."
Schmidt praises the 787’s many engineering and handling advances as well as the all-new flight deck, which Schmidt says is the pilot's "office" during their working hours in the sky.
“It’s cleaner, less cluttered and quieter” Schmidt says.
"I think the lower noise levels (on the flight deck) surprised all the 787 pilots" he adds. "There's less noise on take-off, landing and cruising."
The 787 is a noticeably quieter ride for pilots due to Boeing's 'rethink' approach when designing the Dreamliner.
Unlike most aircraft, including the Airbus A320s and Boeing 747s which Schmidt previously flew for Jetstar and Qantas, the windows on the 787's nose are fixed in place, rather than being able to slide open.
"Sliding windows always create a bit of noise" Schmidt explains, adding that the ability for crew to evacuate the cabin by opening the windows was an essential safety requirement.
"You've got to have an alternate means of escaping from the cabin, so Boeing put in a hatch at the top right-hand side of the cockpit."
The window wipers were also redesigned to run vertically rather than horizontally, "and that plus the the whole profile of the flight deck helps reduce the noise that pilots experience" Schmidt says.
Four 787s by April, ten more to follow
Jetstar will by flying four 787s by April next year and will be operating a 14-strong Boeing 787 international fleet by the end of 2015.
The Dreamliners will fly to all Jetstar destinations currently served by Airbus A330s including Hawaii, Japan, Phuket and Singapore.
Those A330s will be handed down to Qantas, which will upgrade them with new interiors including the flat-bed 'business suite' in business class and new economy seats for the A330s dedicated to international flights.
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.