How The Boeing 787 Enabled Hainan Airlines’ Beijing-Boston Flight

Hainan Airlines Boeing 787

Hainan Airlines Boeing 787

Between June 9 and June 20, four airlines inaugurated flights from the U.S. to China and Hong Kong, with two of the flights made possible by deliveries of the Boeing BA -0.76% 787 Dreamliner.

On June 9, United began thrice weekly 787 service between San Francisco and Chengdu, the first commercial aviation flight ever between North American and the interior to China. “We couldn’t do the flight without the 787,” said Walter Dias, United managing director for Greater China & Korea. “It opens up possibilities that were not here 10 years ago.” The flight is 6,857 miles.

On June 20, the Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines began four-times-a-week 787 service between Beijing and Boston, a 6,737 flight that passes over the North Pole. (Late summer service will be daily.) “The 787 is made for Boston,” said Joel M. Chusid, US executive director for Hainan.

On June 11, American began service from Dallas to Hong Kong and Shanghai; on June 16, Delta launched Seattle-Hong Kong service.

“Boston was the top U.S. market that did not have service to China,” Chusid said. “We’ve been talking to Boston for approaching eight years. The primary reason we didn’t start sooner was the lack of aircraft availability. We have the (Airbus) A340, but it was not well suited to Boston-Beijing. It’s too big.”

The beauty of the 787 is that, because of its fuel efficiency, it can fly global longhaul routes with relatively small passenger loads. Hainan’s 787-8 carries 213 passengers, while United’s carries 219.

Hainan, founded in 1993, has a hub in Beijing. The fourth largest Chinese airline, it is the only one not owned primarily by the Chinese government and the only one not in an alliance. China Southern and China Eastern are in Skyteam, while Air China, which also operates a Beijing hub, is in Star. Hainan has talked with Oneworld. “It’s not that we are not interested, but there has not been an agreement reached,” Chusid said.

Hainan has a fleet of about 130 aircraft including a half dozen 787s. Its three U.S. destinations, which also include Chicago and Seattle, will all have 787 service by September, Chusid said.

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