South America's LAN Airlines will begin flying the Boeing 787 between Sydney and Santiago this week, with a stopover in Auckland also providing a quick trans-Tasman dash on the advanced Dreamliner.
LAN, which as a member of the Oneworld airline alliance is also a Qantas partner, will upgrade to the Boeing 787-8 from the current fuel-thirsty Airbus A340-300 from April 18.
The 11 hour leg between Auckland and the Chilean capital will showcase the Boeing 787's jetlag-busting traits such as lower cabin altitude and higher humidity.
However, the Dreamliner's debut will also boost the airline's appeal to trans-Tasman business travellers on the Sydney-Auckland route.
For starters, unlike the domestic grade business class seats of the Boeing 737s run by Qantas and Virgin Australia, LAN's Boeing 787 sports an international-grade Premium Business cabin.
This includes 30 wide seats which convert to lie-flat beds, plus a decent amount of personal space.
Each seat gets it own 15.4 inch video screen, with AC and USB ports to keep your travel tech charged up en route.
Perhaps even more compelling is the price.
A business class return ticket on the Sydney-Auckland leg of LAN's daily Boeing 787 service sells for $780.
That's almost as much as you'd pay for the cheapest one-way business seat on Qantas' Sydney-Auckland flights, which begin around $659-$701 at Business Sale rates and $850-$882 for Business Saver fares.
The main downside is that LAN's one-flight-per-day schedule requires an early start.
The 9.30am departure from Sydney (for a 2.45pm arrival into Auckland) is quite bearable, especially if you hold Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum status and can begin your journey at the Qantas First Lounge. But the 6.15am wheels-up from Auckland might be a bit harder to take.
The larger Boeing 787-9 will take over the route "in late Q3 or early Q4" says Johanna Raeder, LATAM's Asia-Pacific Marketing and Communications Manager, but will have the same-size business class cabin as the 787-8, with 30 seats at the pointy end.
LAN will be the eighth airline to fly the Boeing 787 in Australian skies, following Air New Zealand, Air India, Jetstar, Royal Brunei, Scoot, Thai and United.
Etihad will join the Aussie Dreamliner set in June 2015 with its Boeing 787-9 beginning a daily direct Brisbane-Abu Dhabi service.
As for Qantas, which holds 50 options and purchase rights on the Boeing 787-9, speculation continues that we could see the first red-tailed Dreamliners from 2017.
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