Boeing Dreamliner to make first commercial flightHong kong - Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner makes its first commercial flight on Wednesday, giving a handful of deep-pocketed passengers the chance to fly into history on what is touted as an aviation breakthrough.
The first mid-sized airplane capable of flying long-range routes, many thought the Dreamliner might never get off the ground as its development ran three years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.
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The All Nippon Airways (ANA) flight from Tokyo's Narita airport to Hong Kong, where it is scheduled to land around 0830 GMT, will give paying passengers the opportunity to decide whether it was worth the trouble.
ANA, the Dreamliner's launch airline, auctioned six business class seats on the inaugural flight, with one selling for $34,000 -- around 13 times the price of a regular business class ticket.
The unidentified winning bidder will leave Tokyo around midday local time on Wednesday and return to the Japanese capital on Thursday. ANA said proceeds from the auction would go to international environmental NGOs.
ANA also sold 100 economy class seats as part of a tour package including one night at a hotel in Hong Kong for 78,700 yen ($1,000) per adult.
At travel agencies in Japan a discount ANA return economy ticket on the route in late October costs around 45,000 yen.
Painted in the blue and white ANA livery with red highlights, the first Dreamliner was delivered on September 28, three years after it was originally promised to the airline.
Production delays and technical mishaps cost US-based Boeing billions of dollars in lost or cancelled orders, giving an edge to its fierce European rival Airbus.
But Shinichiro Ito, president and CEO of ANA, who travelled on the 330-seat jet from the United States after receiving it from Boeing, declared himself "delighted" with "the aircraft's first touchdown" in Tokyo last month.
ANA is planning to use the 787 on regular flights to Beijing and Frankfurt, as well as Hong Kong.
In common with other high-end carriers, the Japanese airline is facing increasing competition from budget companies and is banking on the 787 to boost demand and cut costs.
Boeing says the twin-aisle 787's construction, partly from lightweight composite materials, means it consumes 20 percent less fuel than comparable planes, an attractive proposition for airlines facing soaring fuel costs.
The Chicago-based aerospace and defence giant has also been touting the larger windows, bigger luggage storage bins and greater cabin humidity than conventional jets, a factor it says will reduce traveller fatigue.
Boeing is hoping the Dreamliner will be a hit with passengers it says want more non-stop travel, and says it is already the fastest-selling twin-aisle airplane in aviation history, with more than 800 orders since 2004.
With an average list price of $202 million, it is the firm's first new design in more than a decade.
by Beh Lih Yi
(c) 2011 AFP
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