First look: Qantas unveils its first 787 Dreamliner

Qantas has received its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane, the cutting-edge aircraft it will use next year to start flying the world's first non-stop route between Australia and London.

The aircraft, dubbed "Great Southern Land" after a competition was held to name the carrier's 787s, represents the first new plane model to be delivered to the airline since it first received its first Airbus A380 superjumbo in 2008.

The 787-900 is the longest range Dreamliner currently available and will first fly the Melbourne to Los Angeles route from December. After the second Dreamliner is received, the airline will start flying non-stop services from Perth to London set to begin in March. That 14,498 kilometre long-haul will take 17 hours.

Qantas received its first of eight Dreamliners at a ceremony at Boeing's factory in Everett, near Seattle, on Monday, unveiling its interiors for the first time. The airline is set to receive a further seven 787s before the end of next year, with the option to purchase up to 45.

"This is going to be the best aircraft Qantas has ever put in the air," said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.

The Qantas 787 will seat 236 passengers across three classes: there are 42 seats in the business class cabin, in a 1-2-1 layout, and 166 in economy in a 3-3-3 configuration. Qantas says this is a less cramped configuration than many other airlines use for the aircraft, with a more typical Dreamliner 787-9 carrying more than 300 passengers in total.

The business class seat is the same as the new seat found on the airline's Airbus A330s, with the added improvement of an adjustable divider between seats. The "Business Suite" also converts to a fully flat bed and the layout offers direct aisle access for all business class passengers.

The premium economy design is all new, boasting a seat 10 per cent wider and with a greater recline than the airline's existing premium economy product. The premium economy cabin will feature 28 seats in a 2-3-2 layout.

In good news for economy class passengers, the 787's economy seat offers an extra inch (2.54cm) of seat pitch compared to the same class on its A380.

The Dreamliner, and it's rival Airbus plane the A350, have become the aircraft of choice for major airlines in recent years, thanks to their composite materials and fuel efficiency that can result in millions in savings.

See also: Airbus A350 vs Boeing Dreamliner - which plane rules in the long haul?

Airlines have shifted towards smaller, more fuel efficient airliners, which has seen the popularity of the iconic Boeing 747 jumbo jet, and its much new rival, the A380, wane in recent years. The era of the 747 in Australia is coming to an end, as Qantas replaces five ageing jumbo jets with the new Dreamliners.

For passengers, too, the new aircraft is good news. The Dreamliner boasts a more humid cabin and a higher cabin pressure - making the air more like being on the ground than on other aircraft. Boeing says this lessens the impact of jet lag. Airbus makes similar claims for the A350.

Gareth Evans, Chief Executive Officer Qantas International, said the airline had also worked with the University of Sydney's medical research institute the Charles Perkins Centre on finding ways to reduce jet lag for passengers on the Dreamliner's long-haul flights.

Evans said factors such as the style and colour of cabin lighting during the flight would change to help passengers adjust, and meal serving times had been adjusted to ensure passengers ate at times that would best help them rest in between.

There are also larger windows with dimmer switches rather than blinds. Boeing's Jim Freitas said the larger windows meant that all passengers, even those flying in the dreaded middle seats, could still enjoy the view.

The first Dreamliner will first fly to Hawaii for a short visit before landing at Sydney Airport on Friday morning. The aircraft will first fly several domestic routes for training and testing purposes, including the Sydney-Melbourne route, before it starts its regular route from Melbourne to LA on December 6.

The Dreamliner will later start flying what Qantas has dubbed "the smiley route", with the same aircraft travelling from the LA to Melbourne, then on to Perth and finally London (creating an overall route in the shape of a smile).

The flight marks the first time Europe and Australia have been served by a non-stop flight.

"It is one of the last frontiers in global aviation," Mr Joyce said.

Mr Joyce has his eyes set on the next challenge - non-stop flights between Australia's east coast and London, as well as New York. Dubbed "Project Sunrise", he has challenged Boeing and Airbus to come up with an aircraft that can fly the extreme distance between these cities while under a full load of passengers and cargo.

Frietus said Boeing is up for the challenge and is working with Qantas on developing an aircraft capable of flying these non-stop routes, which would each cover more than 16,000 kilometres and take more than 18 hours.

The writer travelled to Seattle as a guest of Qantas

Follow the writer on Twitter and Instagram.

See also: Qantas non-stop flights to London go on sale

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