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Sep 21, 2017


Seen near Seattle overnight, a fully dressed Qantas Dreamliner

Looking good, the first Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner (and the 615th production model from Boeing)  has left the paint shop in America prior to all the acceptance and pre-delivery work that it will do before arriving in Sydney on October 20.

This is one of eight such 787s in the first tranche of Dreamliner deliveries to Qantas.

After some domestic familiarisation flights in November the 236 seat airliner is set to begin international flights on the Melbourne-Los Angeles route in December.  In March next year it will also begin Melbourne-Perth-London flights which will be the first scheduled non-stop services between an Australian city and the UK.

Just think, if 18 of those 236 seats were removed to allow the originally intended eight across seating in economy to be installed instead of a punitive nine across format, most of those on board could fly in as much comfort as is possible in an A380 today!


Sep 1, 2017


Don’t fret, Air Canada loves visual approaches to Vancouver in its 787s

Canada is gaining momentum as a source as well as destination for tourism, with Air Canada starting a third non-stop route to Vancouver, this time from Melbourne, from June 3 next year.

The flights, on a 787-9 Dreamliner, will join a roster of similarly year round services daily from Sydney and Brisbane.

Air Canada said it would make the service a convenient way to access some US cities, notably including Boston, compared to itineraries offered by other airlines over other west coast US cities.

The introduction in June 2018 of a year-round service from Australia’s second largest city will follow the completion of a seasonal service between Melbourne and Vancouver from 3 December 2017 to 4 February 2018 (the peak northern hemisphere winter period).

Air Canada said it would use a three class configuration in business class, premium economy and economy for the flights. The writer’s enthusiastic support for the hip bone crushing long haul experience of tight fit Dreamliner economy class is well known, but he is also a Canada travel tragic.

Virgin Australia, Air Canada’s partner in this country, will provide flights that connect readily with the new Melbourne-Vancouver flights from Tasmanian and South Australia and Perth.

ULR flight

May 2, 2017


This Qantas 747 did London-Sydney non-stop in 1989

While there are obvious benefits (but maybe not in economy) in the forthcoming Qantas non-stop 787 flights between Perth and London for travellers starting out in Perth, the attractions for those leaving from Melbourne or Sydney are less clear.

Most flyer departing Australia for London, or for gateways in Europe, start their trips from the east coast cities, and for them the trip will continue to be one-stop, whether they fly via Perth, or the likes of Singapore, Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha.

And they will overwhelmingly do so in the superior comfort standards of Airbus A380s, including flying Qantas on what will be its only A380 all-the-way flight from Sydney, once Melbourne loses its Qantas A380 service on the route when the 787s start flying a domestic sector from Tullamarine airport to Perth for the onward London flight from next March.

Some of the disadvantages in this situation for those thinking of flying Qantas rather than Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Etihad or Qatar Airways from Melbourne, can be found between the lines of this report in Australian Business Traveller.

All but Etihad among those Qantas competitors will be offering A380s all the way to London from Melbourne when Qantas reduces the seats it has on offer in Melbourne for a one-stop flight to Heathrow airport from its A380 via Dubai to the much smaller 787 via Perth.

So the net gain for Melbournians as well as those starting from points that are elsewhere east of Perth on the 787 service is questionable, no matter how excellent the product initiatives Qantas is bringing to the new but for most passengers tighter Dreamliner.

In fact Qantas has indicated that it will completely refurbish its A380s from nose to tail in order to compete with the refurbished and brand new A380 Singapore Airlines inaugurates from Sydney later this year and well before the Perth-London non-stop begins.

The remaking of the Qantas A380 fleet is said by some sources to liberate very useful increases in payload through the use of space saving spiral or ‘enhanced’ staircases forward and aft and much lighter seating fixtures.  Whatever the accuracy of such information from within Qantas, there is every reason to believe its A380s will emerge from refurbishment as convincing answers to the initiatives already being built into new SingaporeAir A380s and promised for the Emirates fleet.

The currently configured Qantas A380s lag the amenity levels seen in the Etihad A380s (soon to be twice daily from Sydney and with around four times the total capacity of a single London via Perth 787) or those that fly at times on Australian routes for Qatar Airways, or indeed the Emirates A380s on which Qantas places its code shares so that its customers can get the bigger-than-Dreamliner economy seats yet earn Qantas points.

There are however major potential advantages for the small number of passengers Qantas can accommodate on its 787s through Perth in that Dubai airport is so overcrowded people have to queue for the toilets, even at times in some of the business class lounges as well as in the main terminals, and Abu Dhabi’s all new and soon to open Midfield Terminal is much needed given the pressure on existing facilities caused by its success in growing that alternative UAE hub.

Singapore is in the box seat in this situation. Its Changi airport hub may not always prove perfect for purpose, but its fair to say it enjoys a huge reputational and in this writer’s opinion, real advantage over the other airports at which all flyers from Australia to London or European cities will stop until a commercially viable true non-stop airliner from the east coast of this country to the UK and EU becomes available. Maybe even before 2025.

Hidden behind all the hype about non-stop Perth 787s to London, and if Qantas has its way, to Paris, Frankfurt and maybe even Berlin (if it ever manages to complete its new airport), there is a story about ‘Little Qantas’. Qantas is making itself a notably smaller player in terms of its own fleet to the UK.

It holds or held four invaluable slots a day at London Heathrow airport, but will after the Melbourne A380 daily ends, only fly an A380 on one of them, and a much smaller 787 on another. Most Australians who want to earn Qantas points on a flight to Europe or the UK will do so on Emirates code shares, and in its A380s or 777s (and from the early 2020s in 777-Xs.)

Unfortunately for Qantas, the 787 is too small an aircraft for purpose on major Australia-Europe routes. What made sense in December 2005 when it was ordered doesn’t make sense today when 777s (and 777-Xs) and A350s offer better operational outcomes on city pairs that haven’t grown enough to support A380 sized loads per available slot.

While Qantas has become a strong and profitable airline group, it hasn’t tried to keep pace with demand, much of which shows very clear signs of being inbound, from markets where its brand value and recognition is low.

Non-stop flights between Perth and the UK and Europe will not on their own address these structural challenges nor radically improve the one-stop on the way flying experience of travellers in the rest of Australia, and it could be the Singapore one-stop offers that prove the prime challenge to Qantas services.

airliner designs

Feb 18, 2017


Did Trump’s minders hide this Boeing graphic from him?

There could be less nervousness about the Trump administration in American aerospace following the rolling out of the second stretch of the Boeing Dreamliner family, the 787-10, in North Charleston overnight.

President Trump declared it as ‘all American made’, meaning that either he doesn’t get the Boeing message of many years about how the Dreamliner is a global airliner, or alternatively, that he understands it perfectly, but will call it all American anyhow rather than pursue his hard line about American jobs going overseas.

Maybe the Boeing graphic at the top of this post, which has featured large in numerous Boeing briefings for almost four years, never quite made it across his desk, or has been kept hidden by his aides and entourage.

In any event the apparently improved relationship between the President and Boeing is likely to calm rattled nerves in the US aerospace sector, although less so in Lockheed Martin, because of his regular references to whether or not Boeing’s Super Hornets mightn’t prove better value for money than the Joint Strike Fighter.

A short guide to the recent history of the Trump-Boeing relationship can be read here.

The 787-10 shown below is a payload versus range trade off that recognises that current Boeing (and Airbus) widebody jets generally offer more range than they are likely to need for the routes they most frequently fly.

It is also likely to be prominent in this part of the world because that compromise, of more seats for less range, fits very well with launch customer SingaporeAir’s needs on its routes to Australia, China, South Korea, Japan and India.

Singapore Airlines is committed to purchasing 49 Dreamliner 787-10s, as well as 67 similarly sized but much longer ranging Airbus A350-900s, some of which will be optimised as ultra long range models for non-stops to New York and Los Angeles.

The critical question for air travellers however is whether or not Singapore Airlines will render the 787-10 in economy class in the spacious eight across format Boeing designed for  it, or the nine across arrangement that jams the hip bones or passenger hard together for what can be an intolerably miserable ride over any distance.

So far, airline accountants appear to have more say in these decisions among 787 buyers than executives who understand that being a full service carrier means you don’t try to get away with the smallest longer distance airline seats ever seen in service for the entire commercially successful jet age which began almost 60 years ago.

Boeing says the 787-10 will begin its certification flights within a few months and enter service next year.

fleet decisions

Dec 13, 2016


Now add nine normal sized adults to these economy seats in the Qantas 787-9
Now add nine normal sized adults to these economy seats in the Qantas 787-9 for 14 hours

Qantas will begin using its Boeing 787-9s to replace its aging 747-400s when it makes the Melbourne-Los Angeles route the first to get an international Dreamliner service from next December 15.

The Dreamliner will carry 236 passengers in a business, premium economy and economy class configuration and complement the daily Airbus A380 service already flying the MEL-LAX route. The 787-9s will fly the route six times a week, replacing the 747 service that currently operates alongside the A380.

This will lift Qantas services on the route from nine to 13 return flights per week and give travellers the convenience of a morning or afternoon departure from Melbourne on most days. As it replaces a larger, 364-seat 747 that operates twice a week, the net capacity increase is approximately 1,400 seats in total.

The announcement of the first Qantas international 787 route follows earlier news that the Dreamliner will be used to launch non-stop routes between Perth and London in March 2018 (using a schedule that may start and end with a Melbourne-Perth sector.)


Dec 11, 2016


OK, clench those butt cheeks back there for the next 17 hours.
OK, clench those butt cheeks back there for the next 17 hours.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce made a persuasive case for the new Perth-London non-stop flights when he today confirmed their operation from March 2018.

The service to be flown by Boeing 787-9s has also been speculated as possibly leading to the Dreamliners being later introduced to non-stop services between the WA capital and Frankfurt and Paris.

Mr Joyce said the history-making route would be a watershed for travel, tourism and trade.

“When Qantas created the Kangaroo Route to London in 1947, it took four days and nine stops. Now it will take just 17 hours from Perth non-stop.

“This is a game-changing route flown by a game-changing aircraft. Australians have never had a direct link to Europe before, so the opportunities this opens up are huge.

“It’s great news for travellers because it will make it easier to get to London. It’s great news for Western Australia because it will bring jobs and tourism. And it’s great news for the nation, because it will bring us closer to one of our biggest trade partners and sources of visitors.”

Mr Joyce said passenger comfort on the long flight was a key consideration.

“When we designed the interior of our 787s, we wanted to make sure passengers would be comfortable on the extended missions the aircraft was capable of.

“That’s why we have features in our Economy seats that other airlines reserve for Premium Economy. Our Business Suite has been nicknamed ‘mini First class’ by many of our frequent flyers. And we’re redesigning our on-board service to help reduce jetlag,” he added.

The enhanced Qantas cabin design is in addition to the comfort factors that Boeing built in to the Dreamliner – improved air quality, lower cabin noise and technology to reduce turbulence.

Mr Joyce said the direct route is expected to appeal to travellers on the East Coast as well as West Australians, helping to deliver a tourism boost.

“A direct flight makes travelling to Australia a much more attractive proposition to millions of people. We expect many travellers from Europe will start their time in Australia with a visit to Perth before going on to see other parts of the country.

“Our modelling shows that people from the East Coast as well as South Australia would fly domestically to Perth to connect to our non-stop London service. Some will take the opportunity to break their journey, whether it’s for business meetings in Perth, to holiday or to visit family.”

The new flight will operate through Qantas’ existing domestic terminals (T3/4), which will be upgraded to accommodate international flights. The airline’s current international services from Perth (to Singapore and to Auckland) will also move to this terminal, helping to simplify the journey for thousands of people every year. Qantas will move its operations to an expanded Terminal 1 at Perth Airport by 2025, pending a commercial agreement.

“We’ll be looking at the timing of our domestic flights through Perth to offer the best connections we can to our international flights, particularly given they will all be under the one roof,” added Mr Joyce.

“I’d like to acknowledge the support of the West Australian Government and Perth Airport in helping make this service a reality.”

Seats on the Perth-London flights will go on sale in April 2017 for the first services in March 2018. The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners used on the route will carry 236 passengers across Business, Premium Economy and Economy cabins.


– The 14,498km flight will take approximately 17 hours (slightly more or less depending on winds).
– When it launches, is expected to be the third-longest passenger flight in the world.
– Longest flight on the Qantas network, followed by our non-stop A380 Sydney-Dallas service (13,730km).
– Will be the longest Boeing Dreamliner flight in the world.

Comment:There are, as always, other matters to consider. The constricted width of the 787 economy seat in a nine across bean counter friendly format is borderline deeply painful on a full flight, as there is no room for your bum and its hip bones, and if you are a mesomorph, similarly no room for your upper body other than to make contact with the person on either or both sides depending on whether you win the middle seat in each triplet.

Qantas is however determined to provide a level of entertainment and service that may ease the pain. The risk for Qantas is that the main flag carriers of the UK and the EU, should similar European flights be negotiated, have in the main ordered the larger, wider and decidedly more comfortable Airbus A350, which in the -900 URL format available from 2019, would be a roomier economy class alternative should Lufthansa or British Airways for example be minded to return to the Australian market using a Perth non-stop routing.

The consequences of a Dubai bypass for the Qantas-Emirates alliance will work itself out. Dubai would remain the only one-stop option for connections to dozens of other European and UK cities such as Manchester, Edinburgh, Lyon, Barcelona, Budapest, Dublin, Cophenhagen, Moscow and so forth.

The Qantas 787-9 will be notably better appointed in business class and premium economy than in its own A380s, however the A380s operating to Australia for Etihad, Emirates and Singapore Airlines not only offer superior cabin amenity in those classes today, but in the latter two operations, will offer revised or totally new premium products in the near term.

A very interesting contest, of networks, hubs, and cabin products is on its way for the Kangaroo routes.


Oct 27, 2016


Is this really going to cut it on ultra long range flights like Melbourne-Dallas?
Is this really going to cut it on ultra long range flights like Melbourne-Dallas?

Qantas has understandably underlined the very good things about the cabins you will find in its 787-9 Dreamliners when they begin joining its fleet late next year.

But nothing changes the reality that most people will fly in it in an economy class seat. In the Qantas 787 it will come in a tight nine across configuration like that in Jetstar’s 787-8s, and with the same 81.28 cms (32 inches) seat pitch that you will find in most, but not all seats in economy class in its 737s, 747s and A380s (with the latter offering a notably wider seat).

This is a jet Boeing designed for a civilised eight across economy class cabin, which is also used by some of the Japan flag carrier Dreamliner flights that Qantas 787s might compete against in the future.

It was never intended to put large children and adults into such small economy class seats  when the Dreamliner family was designed, but times have changed, and as the Qantas 787 cabin announcement today showed, the airline has decided to follow not lead when it comes to the current craze by airline managements to physically hurt the numerical majority of their customers by confiscating once ‘overly generous’ space in the interests of dividing operating costs by a larger number of seats for any given flight.

This is a real pity. Telling people that if they want what they previously paid for in long haul economy space in those more generous times they should pay for a premium economy or business class fare isn’t smart if they can find a classic layout 777 (like those flown by Virgin Australia) or an Airbus A380 or A350 as a roomier alternative on a particular long haul route.

What looks like an improved metric in an analyst presentation might also harm the competitive offering, and brand value, of an airline that wants to ‘jam them in’.

The Dreamliner is a superb aircraft, and as Qantas has outlined in its statement today, it will undoubtedly do a superb job in looking after the premium paying passenger, a type of customer that may be in decline as companies look to savings in their managed travel budgets.

But most Australians fly in economy class. Qantas ought to be more mindful of what most of the market buys when it chooses a class of travel, and what its competitors are doing in their A380s and A350s in particular.



Jun 17, 2016


SingaporeAir's A350 answer to United's 787-9
SingaporeAir’s A350 answer to United’s 787-9

It doesn’t appear to have occurred to the timid mainstream media, but something of a holy war for your backside is involved in the new SingaporeAir non-stop flights from Singapore to San Francisco which start on October 23.

They will use the current version of the Airbus A350-900, and your backside will actually fit in its economy seats for a flight which can last as long as 17 hours flying against headwinds in the direction of Singapore over a nominal shortest possible distance of 13,592 kilometres.

Singapore Airlines announced this service yesterday in response to United Airlines’ just launched non-stop service on the route using the Boeing 787-9.

Thus the world of increasingly frustrated and discomforted economy class flyers will have a head on, make that rear on, contest between the Airbus and Boeing medium sized latest tech twin engined airliners on the same route, and the differences between the service standards of SQ and UA will not be the whole story.

Both airlines have configured their main cabins at nine seats across, but the Boeing is narrower and was designed by the American planemaker at the outset to be a very civilised ‘Dreamliner’ with roomy eight across seats in economy.

When a ‘Dreamliner’ is flown in the nine across configuration, which is what most carriers do, or will do, the seating is the among the meanest and most miserable every flown in any jet since the successful restarting of the modern jet age late in 1958 with Boeing 707s.

This isn’t what Boeing intended, but it is the awful reality.

The only way to fit typical American or Australian adults and teenagers into a nine across 787 for a flight requiring heroic powers of endurance would involve surgery to reduce hip width.  (This also applies to operations where 767s are fitted with eight across Y class seats, and A330s are flown nine across in economy class.)

Qantas has promised to compensate economy class passengers in its forthcoming 787-9 services with extra legroom. That will never be good enough, unless it is so generous that a passenger can swivel sideways to avoid raw bone pain in the hips.

The problem for 787 operators is that unless they screw their passengers where it hurts they will not get seat counts that reflect rising levels of demand that weren’t understood when the design was set in granite.

The industry (over time) has entered a period in which growth in numbers, and in the size of the average human who catches planes, have both exceeded the theoretical economic optimums of super efficient cabin configurations.

This contest, between efficiency goals and the pain and discomfort thresholds of customers, is going to be laid bare (or something like that) when SingaporeAir’s civilised A350s take on United’s more compact 787s, across business and premium economy classes of product as well as in standard economy class.

The SingaporeAir flights will offer a total 257 seats, United’s 252 seats. The overall dimensions of the A350-900 are slightly larger than those of the 787-9.

The Singapore carrier’s use of the A350-900 appears to be interim, as that jet is optimised for shorter routes than the non-stop to San Francisco. In 2018 it starts taking deliveries of the ultra long range A350-900 ULR and says they will be used for the much longer non-stop route between Singapore and Newark (for New York City) which the airline abandoned in 2013, as well as to Los Angeles, which is only slightly further than San Francisco, but can consume vital extra minutes in its even busier vectoring for a landing.

It has also said other cities in the US will get A350-900 ULR flights. In the 2020s Boeing will offer a larger ultra long range jet in the 777-9 and Airbus has informally mentioned the ULR potential of larger versions of the A350 and an upgraded A380.


Jan 26, 2016



Dec 21, 2015


The Air Canada 787-8 Dreamliner has changed as well as grown Australia-Canada services
The Air Canada 787-8 Dreamliner is changing as well as growing  Australia-Canada services

Interest in Australia-Canada travel has surged to the extent that Air Canada has turned its new route from Vancouver to Brisbane to a daily 787 Dreamliner from 17 June next year. When the service starts on 1 June it was initially set at only three flights a week. Continue reading “Air Canada 787 doubles key Australian route even before it launches”


Nov 11, 2015



Sep 6, 2015


The Starliner, a natural successor to the Apollo capsules of long ago

Boeing’s forthcoming reusable manned space craft were retitled Starliners this last week, a name that immediately identifies the airliner maker’s illustrious legacy with the impending second space age of large scale orbital industrial and research oriented activity. Continue reading “Dreamliners, Starliners, will Boeing do a Stratoliner?”


Aug 27, 2015


air safety

Aug 22, 2015


The Ethiopian 787 at London Heathrow after the tail fire was suppressed

The aviation world quickly lost interest in a tail fire in a parked Ethiopian Airlines 787 at London Heathrow in 2013 when it was found to have been caused by a pinched wire in an emergency locator transmitter and not its then controversial underfloor lithium ion batteries .

However this last week’s release of the UK incident investigation by the AAIB has changed that. Continue reading “That tail fire in an Ethiopian 787 was more serious than thought”


Aug 21, 2015


financial results

Aug 20, 2015