Boeing 787 makes first commerical flight

Our good friend Scott Mayerowitz over at the AP was lucky enough to get a seat on the first commercial 787 Dreamliner flight, and he’s just published an update on the experience. The special flight, which ran between Tokyo and Hong Kong yesterday, played host to a variety of media and airline enthusiasts and is a celebration to kick off widespread service of aircraft on All Nippon Airways. The airline is expected to receive 55 aircraft over the next several years and unroll the equipment out to a variety of medium and long haul routes.

Those hoping to fly on the Dreamliner in the United States will have to wait until the first domestic carrier, United Airlines, receives its equipment in early 2012. That aircraft, which is initially scheduled to fly between Houston and Auckland, just rolled of of the assembly line this month and is currently undergoing testing.

New with this airframe will be improved air conditions, wider windows, larger overhead bin space and a quieter, more efficient experience. Whether or not the airlines can successfully negate these benefits with fees and constraints is yet to be proven.

[flickr image via PYONKO]

ANA’s 787 Dreamliner Interior Revealed

Boeing has unveiled interior designs for its 787 Dreamliner at the Paris Air Show earlier this week, and we must admit, we’re intrigued. There’s a WINDOW in the bathroom!

The 787-8 will sit 210 to 250 passengers, have a 7,650 to 8,200 nautical mile flying range, and an array of high tech enhancements. The 787-9 will seat 250 to 290 and have a range of 8,000 to 8,500 NMI.

In addition to bringing big-jet ranges to mid-size airplanes, the 787 will provide airlines with unmatched fuel efficiency, resulting in exceptional environmental performance. The airplane will use 20 percent less fuel for comparable missions than today’s similarly sized airplane. It will also travel at speeds similar to today’s fastest wide bodies, Mach 0.85. Airlines will enjoy more cargo revenue capacity.

In the cabin space, the 787 will have larger windows with an adjustable tint, more spacious overhead storage (images show four bags fitting comfortably), and large, lay-flat beds in First and Business classes. Economy will feature a 2-4-2 design and reclining seats. To improve overall comfort in flights, the airplane will employ improved air filtration system, higher humidity levels (to prevent dehydration), a lower cabin altitude (ensuring a more comfortable flight) and design innovations to ensure a less bumpy ride and quieter in-cabin experience.

Find more about the technical specifications of the 787 Dreamliner here.

In more news from Boeing, the company also announced that they will move the flight attendant call button, eliminating hassles for the crew and travelers alike.

ANA brings keg beer to 30,000 ft

Spend enough time in the friendly skies and you being to notice that things taste a bit different. Perhaps it’s the air pressure and humidity when 6 miles above sea level, or maybe the small child that’s crying and pooping all over your armrest, but something about airline food, drink and air just tastes weird.

As a result, when tidbits from terra firma are successfully emulated upstairs, people get excited. A recent thread on Flyertalk announcing that American Airlines was bringing Illy Issimo coffee to some flights had dozens of airline nerds reaching for hand lotion, and every time a new snack or beverage gets loaded into Gate Gourmet the servers at heave under the heavy load.

These improvements, however, aren’t without careful targeting. Many passengers, especially those flying in business and first class cabins are willing to make their choice in airline based on the catering, and one small change can mean a slew of ticket sales or losses. Perhaps that’s why All Nippon Airways (ANA) is bringing keg beer to some of its flights.

It’s genius, in a way, as many a beer-lover can tell you that draft beer tastes many times better than anything straight out of the can (perhaps because of the air pressure or small children.)

Unfortunately, most westerners won’t be able to try out the draft beer any time soon. Draft beer will only be available on select flights out of Japan, and even then, only on certain routes. Let’s hope that the trend will catch on soon and that draft beer will soon be on Delta Connection flights from Peoria to Chicago.

[Photo via Hyougushi on Flickr]

ANA launches “Inspiration of Japan” luxury in-flight experience

With the new motto “Inspiration of Japan,” Japanese carrier ANA (aka All Nippon Airways) is launching a new luxury flight experience, the like of which we’ve never seen.

When one thinks of Japanese hotels, supreme convenience comes to mind — the curtains on a switch by the bed, everything from dramatic lighting schemes to room service controlled by a touchscreen panel — and ANA is bringing that personal accommodation and comfort to flying with their seating.

In the video above, I’ll give you a tour of the various seating classes, including Japan’s first 180° reclining Business Class seats. With the new floor plan, all seats in Business and First Class are aisle seats. The plane will also be equipped with the world’s first in-flight rice steamer, designed exclusively for ANA, guaranteeing the freshest rice you’ve ever had at 30,000 feet.

I chatted briefly with Gary Weiss, ANA’s Director of Market Development about the changes.

Gadling: What’s the philosophy behind these new developments?

Gary Weiss: This is a long-range investment. A lot of carriers are re-trenching; cutting capacity and cutting corners. We decided to just go for it. 2010 represents a great opportunity, with the opening up of more slots at Narita and Haneda. If we don’t do it now, we’ll probably never do it, so we decided, “Let’s hedge our bets, get the best product in the sky going, and we should be able to retain a good yield.”

G: So, rather than cutting corners, you’re making your brand more luxurious?GW: Correct.

G: Is that in response to the economy?

GW: No, this has actually been in research in development since prior to September ’08. It was a good seven, ten year plan. We wanted to be first with some of these luxurious, innovative products — and I’m glad that we have the guts to take the risk.

G: How do these changes translate to your rock-bottom, Economy Class passengers?

GW: It’s the same idea. We actually made it bigger and better. There’s three more inches of seat pitch, the distance between the rows. That intrusive seat back doesn’t come into your face anymore — your neighbor in front of you won’t hit you in the head or close your laptop.

The first flights to include these new features will be the Narita-New York route on the new Boeing 777-300ER, commencing in February 2010. Keep an eye on the ANA SkyWeb for more updates.

Lisbon airport brings some Christmas joy – flashmob style!

Christmas time at the airport is usually a time of doom, gloom, pushing and waiting in line. Portuguese airline TAP and the Portuguese Airport Authority decided to spice things up at Lisbon airport with a massive dance and music show. Bonus points for spotting the dancing Santa.

Watch for yourself, and see the joy this brought to the passengers. How do you think this would go down at your local airport? Would the TSA have the happy people shot, or just tasered?

(Thanks Rita!)