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Following a ceremony Monday at Boeing’s Paine Field, Qantas Airways took delivery of its first 787-9 Dreamliner — one of eight such aircraft to be delivered by 2019. Originally ordered in August of 2015, these Dreamliners are set to replace the airline’s older 747s, and represent the first new aircraft type in the Qantas fleet since the A380 was added in 2008.

With a range of over 8,900 miles, the 787-9 enables Qantas to expand its international network. Service will begin along the airline’s existing route between Melbourne (MEL) and Los Angeles (LAX), and will then include the world’s new longest flight between Perth (PER) and London (LHR) beginning in March. Four of the new aircraft will initially be devoted to those routes, while the remaining four will fly out of Brisbane.

Qantas also has options and purchase rights on up to 45 more Dreamliners, with flexible delivery dates stretching into the middle of the next decade. Those aircraft may prove critical to Qantas’ long-term strategy as the airline sets its sights on other unique services (like Perth-Paris) and tries to meet strong demand in Asia. Future destinations when more Dreamliners join the fleet have yet to be announced, but Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has cited non-stop service to Chicago as a possibility.

One caveat is that Qantas 787s do not have Wi-Fi, unlike those of direct competitors on trans-Pacific routes like American Airlines and United. On Australia to Europe routes, connectivity is available on the aircraft of competing airlines like Emirates and Etihad.

Image courtesy of Qantas Airways.
Image courtesy of Qantas Airways.

Cabin and Seats

Qantas’ 787-9 configuration has a total of 236 seats: 42 in business class, 28 in premium economy, and 166 in economy. That’s far fewer than most similar-sized Dreamliners; by comparison, Air New Zealand’s 787-9 can fit 302 passengers. Qantas is marketing this lower capacity as a more spacious layout, but it’s really the product of a larger business class cabin. Air New Zealand has only 18 seats in business class and 263 in economy, but those seats are comparable to what you’ll find on the Qantas Dreamliner.

The business class cabin features the new suite (dubbed “mini-first”). Seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, and offer personal screens that can be raised for privacy from the rest of the cabin.

Image courtesy of Qantas Airways.
Image courtesy of Qantas Airways.

Each seat offers a pitch of 46 inches, width of 24-25 inches, and a bed length of 80 inches when extended, and seats can be reclined (not flat) throughout the flight from takeoff to landing. Business seats are equipped with a 16-inch personal touchscreen for entertainment, along with in-seat charging for computers and USB devices.

Image courtesy of Qantas Airways.
Image courtesy of Qantas Airways.

The Premium Economy cabin is arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration. Each seat offers 38 inches of pitch — three inches less than Air New Zealand, but three inches more than United’s 787-9 Economy Plus. Meanwhile, the Qantas seats best both competitors with 22.8 inches of width and 9.5 inches of recline.

Premium Economy seats are equipped with seatback entertainment screens, two USB charging stations, an integrated nightlight and custom-made pillows. You’ll also find five individual storage areas to stash your various belongings during longer flights.

Image courtesy of Qantas Airways.
Image courtesy of Qantas Airways.

Finally, the economy cabin is arranged in a 3-3-3 configuration (except for the last row, which is 2-3-2). The 32-inch pitch is one inch more than what Qantas offers on its A380 aircraft, while the 17.2-inch width is slightly less. These seats have six inches of recline, which is on the high side for an economy product.

Each seat has a 12-inch seatback entertainment screen, along with a USB charging station, an electronic device shelf (separate from the tray table) and personal storage for smaller items.

Image courtesy of Qantas Airways.
Image courtesy of Qantas Airways.

Other Features

The Qantas Dreamliner boasts two self-serve bars — one in the business cabin and one in economy. Passengers can help themselves to snacks and beverages available there, or just enjoy the space to socialize and stretch out. The plane is also equipped with an impressive seven lavatories — one behind the cockpit, two between the business and premium economy cabins, and four more in economy.

Like all 787s, the 787-9 has electronically dimmed windows, 65 percent larger than what you’ll find on other aircraft.

Finally, the plane’s interior was designed with help from the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney. Their input will also influence service factors like lighting sequences and menus to aid sleep and reduce jet lag.

Bottom Line

Qantas’ new Dreamliner appears to be a great addition to the fleet, and I’m excited at the prospect of new non-stop routes to and from Australia. Even if claims of a more spacious cabin are a bit misleading, the seats do seem to be comfortable and thoughtfully designed. Plus, the lower capacity should facilitate a smoother boarding process and more attentive service, making the overall experience more pleasant. Hopefully, a Qantas expansion into North American markets will also make its Frequent Flyer program more useful to award travelers there.

Check out these posts to see how other airlines are utilizing the 787-9 Dreamliner:

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