A China Southern Boeing 787 taxiing to the gate at San Francisco International Airport
It’s been an exciting past year or so in the Dallas-Ft. Worth aviation scene, as we’ve had many notable events such as the ending of the Wright Amendment restrictions at Dallas Love Field (DAL) and a dramatic increase in international service at Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW). At 7:10 A.M. CDT tomorrow, American Flight 2320 is schedule to take off for Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD), ushering in the Dreamliner era at both American and DFW Airport. AA will then kick-off 787 service at O’Hare when the plane turns around and flies back to DFW as Flight 2334 at 12:10 P.M. CDT. Note that American is actually entering two 787s into service tomorrow, both on the DFW-ORD route. The second aircraft will leave DFW as Flight 2331 at 5:25 P.M. CDT, returning from ORD as Flight 91 at 10:25 P.M. The short-haul route is temporary, however. On June 2nd, one 787 will enter longhaul service from DFW to Beijing. On June 4th, the second will replace existing 777-200 service on the DFW – Buenos Aires route. Finally, on June 26th, a third 787 will enter service on the DFW – Shanghai route, replacing the 777-200 service that currently that route.
I’ve long been a fan of the Dreamliner project. The plane’s revolutionary technology, especially its composite fuselage, is fascinating on its own, allowing for an approximately 15% reduction in fuel costs on a 4,000-mile route compared to the 767-300ER, which has roughly the same seating capacity as the 787 (209 seats vs. 226). In addition, the composite skin allows for significantly increased maintenance intervals, with the first heavy check due at 12 years vs. 8 on a typical airplane. That makes the economics of the new airplane highly appealing, and American certainly hopes it will make the airplane worth the wait, which was originally supposed to be delivered to AA in 2012. What I’m really curious to see is how the introduction of the 787 ultimately revolutionizes DFW to Asia flying. The Metroplex has a very large and still rapidly growing Asian and Asian-American population, especially those from the Indian subcontinent, but with cut-throat competition and pricing pressures on many routes to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, demand and economics simply haven’t justified direct routes to those areas – and that’s not even accounting for the fact that DFW to Delhi, India, at 8,186 nautical miles, is beyond the range of both the 767 and 777. The Dreamliner, however, has a maximum range of 8,330 miles, so such a route becomes technically possible. Time will tell if such long, thin routes become viable, and honestly I consider it doubtful given the stiff, one-stop competition afforded by the Middle Eastern carriers (Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways). But one can always dream, no pun intended.
Incidentally, I have the honor and privilege of being on American’s inaugural 787 flight tomorrow morning. My original hope was to do an up-and-back with both legs on the 787, but I couldn’t get that to work out. Instead, I’ll enjoy the rather intriguing combination of flying on AA’s newest contraption in the morning, then returning to Dallas on one of their oldest, the MD-80, a couple of hours later. It should make for an interesting compare and contrast. Then, a week from Saturday, I’ll rinse and repeat on the same morning flight, but this time in First (actually the International Business seat with domestic First service) to compare and contrast the cabin experience. Also, In a first for The Road More Traveled, I’m planning on a few live(ish) updates at the inaugural on both Instagram and Twitter, as long as the onboard WiFi cooperates, so follow along if you’d like to live vicariously. My UPGRD colleagues Matthew (sorry Matthew), Daniel, and Rocky will also be on the inaugural, so be sure to follow their feeds for their own unique perspectives. In the meantime, peruse this Airline Biz Blog post for a sneak peak at the airplane.