Aviation News

March 26, 2012

Japan Airlines Ceremony Marks Delivery of its First Boeing 787 Dreamliners

Officials from Japan Airlines, Boeing and GE pose for a photo with the carrier's newly delivered 787 Dreamliner.
Officials from Japan Airlines, Boeing and GE pose for a photo with the carrier's newly delivered 787 Dreamliner. (Photo by Liem Bahneman/NYCAviation)
EVERETT, Wash., March 26 — Japan Airlines’ president received the keys Monday to the carrier’s first two Boeing 787 Dreamliners, moving JAL a step closer to launching the first-ever Dreamliner revenue route in the United States.

Monday’s ceremony comes almost seven years after the Tokyo-based airline ordered the mostly-composite aircraft. JAL is only the second carrier, behind hometown rival All Nippon Airways, to have taken delivery of the much-delayed 787.

JAL will begin Dreamliner service on a new nonstop route linking Boston Logan International Airport with Tokyo’s Narita International Airport in late April, said Yoshiharu Ueki, representative director and president of the JAL Group. The airline will also soon begin 787 service to San Diego, Calif., and Helsinki, Ueki said.

Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, handed the keys to Ueki at a ceremony in the Future of Flight Center, near Boeing’s airplane assembly plant Monday, a day after the official delivery was completed. Grinning, Ueki held the keys aloft to applause.

Photos: Japan Airlines Dreamliner Delivery

“I am very honored to be here, to have received [our 787s] yesterday,” Ueki, himself a former JAL captain, said, “which for me was once an aircraft that only existed in my imagination. I feel very emotional and excited.”

The new airplane offers 42 seats in business class and 144 in economy, said Yap Sze Hunn, a JAL spokesperson, on a tour with reporters. All of JAL’s first Dreamliners will have the same interior configuration, she said.

The plane also features an overhead LED ambient lighting system, which JAL will change from time to time with the seasons of the year, Yap said.

Passengers boarding in May and June, for example, will be greeted with the light-green “Wakaba” theme, Yap said. The Japanese term is derived from the words for “young” and “leaf,” she said. The cabin will have other lighting colors during other seasons, including blue for summer and orange for autumn, she said.

The plane is equipped with three galleys, a six-bed rest area on an upper deck for crew members, and self-dimming, shadeless windows. Passengers can adjust the opacity of the windows using an electronic dial, in order to block most sunlight during daytime hours.

Japan Airlines President Yoshiharu Ueki raises the keys to his airline's first two Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Photo by Liem Bahneman

Japan Airlines President Yoshiharu Ueki raises the keys to his airline's first two Boeing 787 Dreamliners. (Photo by Liem Bahneman/NYCAviation)

JAL will begin its Tokyo-Boston nonstop route on April 22, said Ueki, adding that passengers have already been booking seats. “As for the Boston route,” he said, “our reservations for April and May flights are now over 80 percent full for both Boston and Narita departures.”

“Especially for the month of April, Narita departures for all flights are almost fully reserved,” he said.

As JAL prepares to enter San Diego, it is joined in California by Tokyo-based competitor All Nippon Airways, which last December announced plans to inaugurate service to Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport near San Francisco in fiscal year 2012.

But a spokesman for JAL was unconcerned by All Nippon’s 787 route to the Bay Area.

“After examining the passenger profile of Japan Airlines [passengers on its] San Francisco route, we learned that not many passengers live in San Jose or its neighboring areas,” said Tetsuya Onuki, managing executive officer of corporate planning for JAL Airlines, “so I do not see a big impact by ANA’s [San Jose] service.”

Both JAL and ANA currently fly nonstop from both San Francisco and Los Angeles to airports in Tokyo.

ANA and San Jose’s airport have not announced a start date. All Nippon was the Dreamliner’s launch customer and received its first 787 delivery last September.

Albaugh acknowledged the 787 delivery’s tardiness during the ceremony Monday. But he highlighted the airplane’s utility as consolation for the behind-schedule delivery.

“We know we’re late in delivering this airplane, and we apologize for that,” Albaugh said. “But we hope that when you start operating this airplane, that you’ll forgive us for the fact that it was late.”

JAL’s new Dreamliners represent milestones for the 787 program, Albaugh said. Not only will they inaugurate revenue service for the 787 in North America, he said, but they are also the first Dreamliners equipped with engines from General Electric.

“JAL is the first airline to take delivery of a 787 powered by fuel-efficient General Electric GEnx engines,” Boeing said in a statement Monday.

Japan Airlines ordered its Dreamliners on May 10, 2005, slightly less than seven years ago, according to Boeing records. ANA also waited about seven years for its first delivery, Boeing records show.

Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren contributed to this report.