The first commercial flight of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner to Australia touched down on Friday morning, in an event that also marked the return of Air India resuming direct flights here.
Flight AI312 touched down at Sydney Airport at 8.29am, 14 minutes behind schedule. The flight continued on to Melbourne - originally scheduled for 11.20am, but finally landed at 11.59am.
The arrival of flight AI312 from Delhi marks the first time a Dreamliner has arrived in Australia on a passenger flight. The cutting edge aircraft has been plagued with problems during its initial construction and has run into further difficulties since entering service.
Japan's All Nippon Airways became the first airline to begin flying the Dreamliner in October 2011, three years behind schedule. In January this year the US Federal Aviation ordered the grounding of Dreamliners after a series of safety scares, including an emergency landing by ANA in January following a battery malfunction.
The grounding delayed what was to be the first Dreamliner flight to Australia - a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Perth.
The Dreamliner is the first airliner to be made of carbon fibre, not aluminium, and promises airlines more fuel efficiency – a saving of 20 per cent. It also offers 20 per cent less carbon dioxide emissions than comparable aircraft.
The aircraft promises a better experience for passengers too. The cabin air is, unlike other aircraft, drawn directly from outside, rather than through the engines, meaning it is fresher. The air is also more humid, and pressurised at a lower level – the theory being that passengers will feel better at the end of their flights. There are also larger windows and a more spacious cabin.
Air India has seven 787 planes in its fleet, and will take delivery of another seven by the end of the year. The aircraft seat 18 passengers in business class and 238 in economy.
Air India has returned to the Australian market after a 16-year absence, with a belief that there is untapped potential in the market for travel between the two countries. The flight between Delhi and Sydney takes 12 hours.
Qantas has 14 Dreamliners on order from Boeing, which are to be assigned to Jetstar once they are delivered. The airline's first 787 is set to be delivered in September, with two more to come before the end of the year.