Jetstar's Boeing 787 gets its international groove on

By David Flynn, December 18 2013
Jetstar's Boeing 787 gets its international groove on

Over five years since Qantas expected to commence Boeing 787 flights, its low-cost offshoot Jetstar this week launched the Dreamliner onto its first international flight between Melbourne and Bali.

Jetstar's first Boeing 787 will spend the summer plying on this popular holiday route as flight JQ35, following a month-long series of domestic flights between its Melbourne base and the Gold Coast and Cairns.

Additional Boeing 787 routes are being rolled out as more Dreamliners join the Jetstar fleet – including Sydney-Bali from January 15th 2014, Sydney-Phuket from February 3rd and Brisbane-Bali from April 16th.

There's also a month-long trans-Tasman 787 service between Melbourne and Auckland, from February 26th to March 28th.

Jetstar says its has no doubt that the Dreamliner will be a major drawcard for international travellers, just as it has been on the recent domestic flights.

A Jetstar spokesman told Australian Business Traveller that the airline saw "strong demand for its domestic Boeing 787 Dreamliner services between Melbourne-Cairns and Melbourne-Gold Coast throughout the last month."

"Fares moved particularly fast when we first put domestic services on sale in early October with more than 500 seats sold in the first 48 hours."

Why travellers love the Boeing 787

Along with greater fuel efficiency and a reduced noise footprint compared to conventional aircraft, the Boeing 787 packs with a bevy of passenger-friendly features including a larger and more spacious cabin with more room for carry-on luggage, a quieter smoother ride, plus an effective lower cabin altitude and increased humidity to reduce the effects of jetlag.

Feedback from passengers cited the larger tinted windows, low noise and overall sense of space in the cabin as highlights of the domestic Dreamliner flights.

The 787's cabin altitude – which is set to 6,000 feet above sea level, instead of the usual 7,500 to 8,000 feet on conventional jets – also made for a more comfortable ride, with one passenger noting "no sore eardrums going up or coming down."

Aaron Bradford, who travelled on Jetstar's inaugural Melbourne-Gold Coast service, says the Boeing 787 will shine on Jetstar's long-distance international flights.

"To be quite honest, there's not a whole lot of difference on short-haul flights" Bradford told Australian Business Traveller.

Aaron Bradford (closest to camera) says the Boeing 787 is "a new world" for flyers
Aaron Bradford (closest to camera) says the Boeing 787 is "a new world" for flyers

"By and large the 787 is a medium-to long-haul machine and I can definitely see the higher humidity and increased cabin pressure taking a part in making the journey more comfortable for flights of five hours or more."

"However, I'd still take the Boeing 787 over an Airbus A320 or A330 aircraft any day of the week" he added. "It's a new world."

Read: Review, photos – Jetstar Boeing 787 business class

A dream to fly, say pilots

Jetstar's pilots say the Dreamliner is a dream to fly, and continues to delight them every time they get behind the stick.

"The larger displays make it a lot easier for a pilot – the instrumentation is very clear and easy to read, so it's less fatiguing to fly" says Captain Jeremy Schmidt, who heads Jetstar's Boeing 787 flight operations.

Jetstar Boeing 787 pilot Jeremy Schmidt (right, next to Jetstar's 787 project lead Mark Dal Pra)
Jetstar Boeing 787 pilot Jeremy Schmidt (right, next to Jetstar's 787 project lead Mark Dal Pra)

Having flown Jetstar's first 787 at Boeing's Dreamliner facility in Seattle, on the delivery flight to Melbourne, on aviation safety authority proving flights and Jetstar's domestic runs, Schmidt was also in the jump seat for the Dreamliner's Melbourne-Bali inaugural.

So does he sometimes pinch himself to be flying the Boeing 787?

"Absolutely", Schmidt says. "I still notice the lower cabin altitude and increased humidity, so I get off the flight feeling fresher."

Schmidt praises the 787’s many engineering and handling advances as well as the all-new flight deck, which Schmidt says is the pilot's "office" during their working hours in the sky.

“It’s cleaner, less cluttered and quieter” Schmidt says.

The Boeing 787 flight deck is a pilot's office
The Boeing 787 flight deck is a pilot's office

"I think the lower noise levels (on the flight deck) surprised all the 787 pilots" he adds. "There's less noise on take-off, landing and cruising."

The 787 is a noticeably quieter ride for pilots due to Boeing's 'rethink' approach when designing the Dreamliner.

Unlike most aircraft, including the Airbus A320s and Boeing 747s which Schmidt previously flew for Jetstar and Qantas, the windows on the 787's nose are fixed in place, rather than being able to slide open.

"Sliding windows always create a bit of noise" Schmidt explains, adding that the ability for crew to evacuate the cabin by opening the windows was an essential safety requirement.

"You've got to have an alternate means of escaping from the cabin, so Boeing put in a hatch at the top right-hand side of the cockpit."

The window wipers were also redesigned to run vertically rather than horizontally, "and that plus the the whole profile of the flight deck helps reduce the noise that pilots experience" Schmidt says.

Four 787s by April, ten more to follow

Jetstar will by flying four 787s by April next year and will be operating a 14-strong Boeing 787 international fleet by the end of 2015.

The Dreamliners will fly to all Jetstar destinations currently served by Airbus A330s including Hawaii, Japan, Phuket and Singapore.

Those A330s will be handed down to Qantas, which will upgrade them with new interiors including the flat-bed 'business suite' in business class and new economy seats for the A330s dedicated to international flights.

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

29 Jun 2011

Total posts 6

Can some one explian to me why discount tourists get a nice new plane and the 'premium' mailine brand gets the old hand me down A330?  I am sure their must be a reason.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1024

because Qantas Group is propping up JQ at the expense of QF International.


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 671

Lucky Man: plenty of people will get into the politics of this, take shots at Jetstar and Alan Joyce, but I presume you are asking about the actual thinking behind this decision. I'll try to explain that without getting caught up in blame games.

The idea is that Jetstar is the more profitable airline, and as a low-cost carrier aiming at lowest operating costs and fares, fuel is a big issue (it's the largest 'uncontrollable' element that JQ has to deal with).

So Jetstar gets the 787s because they are more fuel efficient, enabling them to be more competitive and keep operating costs down.

This then lets then hand down their A330s to Qantas, which boosts Qantas' domestic and short-haul international (mainly Asia) fleet and in turn lets Qantas retire its very old and fuel-inefficient Boeing 767s.

I also recall reading somewhere where Alan Joyce explained that the relatively small number of 787s, especially being 787-8s, didn't suit the Qantas fleet nearly as much as Jetstar. That's why Qantas will go for the 787-9s.

So I don't think this is as simple as some people make out, that QF should get the 787s instead of JQ just because they are Qantas. It's obviously more complicated than that especially when you are looking at it from a higher perspective of considering the JQ and QF fleets together.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1024

The issue many people have is that the costs of the new aircraft itself are being charged by the Qantas Group to QFi, not JQ which is using the aircraft.

It is an accounting measure which charges capital costs off to the cost center which isn't even using the capital they are paying for.

If a new aircraft is bound for JQ, then JQ should be baring the capital costs, not transferring those costs to QF. The transferring of which part of the group is paying for things that another uses makes it appear that one part of the business is doing better then it really is and another part is doing worse then it really is. 

There is also the question of JQ getting 14 787s to replace 12 A330s and those A330s then needing to replace 17 767s and some of the 747s. With the confirmed outstanding orders, the numbers don’t add up, unless QF is planning to cut more services.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Nov 2012

Total posts 25

If I understand it correctly, the 787 was designed by Boeing to be 8 across; the Jetstar economy cabin will be 9 across with a 31" seatpitch. 

I've flown recently on an Emirates 777 (10 across in a cabin designed for 9, and a 32 or 33" seat pitch) and an Air Asia A330 (9 across in a cabin designed for 8, with 32" seat pitch). 

These arrangements might work for keep airline accountants smiling, but for me (194 cm tall and 90 kg) they are too uncomfortable to justify a slight saving in fare. There's no way I'l be flying on the Jetstar 787, no matter how cheap the asking price. 

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1024

The only thing I don't like about the 787 is the windows.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Nov 2012

Total posts 25

It's great if the A330s that get handed down from  Jetstary to Qantas are fitted with new economy seats. What I need though is seats where (a) I can put my legs under the seat in front of me without bruising my shins, and (b) the seat in front doesn't recline into my face - minimal seat pitch with generous recline might work for shorter people, but it doesn't work for me. If Qantas have the same legroom, or worse, as it currently has on its A330s, there's no way I'll booking long haul economy with them.  

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