In a year's time, the first Qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner will take flight.
Introduced to the Australian public today by Qantas, the launch represents a quantum leap for the airline, one that drastically changes its long-haul strategy.
Though the Dreamliner boasts a smoother ride, higher cabin air pressure, bigger windows and improved seating, it's the Dreamliner's technical capabilities that are exciting the bean counters in the back office the most. It can fly further than the 747-400s it is replacing, even though it is only two-thirds the size, and, because of its revolutionary lightweight structure and resulting low fuel consumption, it delivers the same per-seat economics without the risk of having to fill the 747's 360-odd seats.
In Qantas's configuration of 236 seats (42 in business class, 28 in premium economy and 166 in economy), the Dreamliner could be employed on missions that were previously unimaginable when they start work in October 2017:
Non-stop from Perth to London: Qantas axed its one-stop connections to the UK capital via Singapore in 2013 when it began its joint venture with Emirates and now relies on the latter to fly passengers to Dubai to connect with onward Qantas or Emirates services to London.
Emirates has supported Qantas's decision to launch non-stops to the UK. The 14,500-kilometre journey will take about 18 hours westbound and 17 hours eastbound.
Sydney to Chicago: Qantas has experimented with one-stop services to one of America's biggest cities via Los Angeles over the years, but the non-stops will cut up to four hours off the journey to and from Australia. Journey time will be just over 17 hours eastbound and just over 18 hours eastbound.
Melbourne to Dallas: Sydney-Dallas A380 services six days a week and daily in peak periods have been one of Qantas's biggest recent successes and 787-9 non-stops to and from Melbourne of 17-18 hours are the logical extension.
Sydney to Vancouver: Qantas reintroduced the Canadian west coast capital to its network several years ago, but only during peak northern summer and winter seasons. The smaller Dreamliner will enable year-round services.
The Dreamliner will also be an excellent airliner for Asian services and will eventually replace 747s currently flying to Johannesburg, South Africa, and Santiago, Chile, while other options like Sydney to the Brazilian business capital Sao Paolo are also in the frame.