Boeing's Dreamliner completes first commercial flight
Boeing's Dreamliner has finally had its maiden commercial voyage, three years later than planned.
The All Nippon Airlines (ANA) flight carried its first passengers from Tokyo to Hong Kong.
The Dreamliner had originally been scheduled for delivery in 2008, but Boeing has suffered a string of setbacks.
Wednesday's flight was a special charter, with normal services due to start in November.
The flight came as Boeing said its quarterly profits were a third higher than last year.
Problems with the Dreamliner have put its launch behind schedule, the latest being an onboard fire during test flights last November, and the company will hope a successful launch will help put to bed some of the memories of prior setbacks.
Boeing says the twin-aisle, mid-size plane features the industry's largest windows, with higher cabin humidity and cleaner air - all of which combine to allow passengers to arrive at their destinations more refreshed.
Because of the materials used in construction - carbon fibre rather than aluminium - as well as new engines and aerodynamics, Boeing says the Dreamliner is about 20% more fuel efficient than similarly-sized models flying today.
That would be a big help for airlines coping with the high price of jet fuel, which is usually their biggest single cost.
ANA's chief Shinichiro Ito and Boeing vice-president Scott Fancher broke open barrels of sake with small hammers and passed it around to passengers as they boarded in Tokyo.
The airline auctioned six business-class seats on the inaugural flight, with one selling for $34,000 (£21,200) - about 13 times the price of a regular business-class ticket between the two Asian hubs.
The winner, Gino Bertuccio, won because he accidentally added an extra digit onto his bid - but he was happy regardless, according to the Wall Street Journal.
"Just thinking I'm going to be part of aviation history is a dream," he told the paper.
Another passenger was part of a small group of fliers who try to fly on the first flights of major new planes.
Thomas Lee, a 59-year-old Californian, also flew on the maiden commercial flights of the Boeing 747 in 1970 and the Airbus A380 superjumbo in 2007.
The airline said that net profit in the third quarter rose 31% to $1.1bn, from the same July-September period last year.
It also raised its earnings outlook for the year, as it said that it had 255 net orders during the quarter and 426 during the first nine months of 2011.
"Our improved outlook for earnings reflects confidence in our market positions," said Boeing chairman and president Jim McNerney.
But it now expects to deliver 480 planes this year, down from its previous forecast of between 485 and 495 planes.
Boeing plans to make 10 of the Dreamliner planes a month from 2013. But the long delay has hurt its business.
Last week, China Eastern Airlines cancelled orders for 24 Dreamliners, rather than wait for production to pick up.
Boeing has more than 800 orders on its books for the 787 Dreamliner, and the average list price is $201.7m.
Japan, a market in which Boeing dominates rival Airbus, is a major market for the Dreamliner.
ANA will take delivery of dozens more of the aircraft in the coming years.
"For carriers with high operating margins, the 787 is critical for gaining a cost competitiveness," said Masaharu Hirokane, an analyst at Nomura Holding in Tokyo.