Qantas, Jetstar and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner: what you need to know

By David Flynn, June 6 2013
Qantas, Jetstar and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner: what you need to know

Jetstar will take delivery of Australia's first Boeing 787 Dreamlinernext month, and it's the start of big things for Boeing's next-generation jet – with 13 to follow for Jetstar plus as many as 50 more to be shared between Qantas and Jetstar.

Here's a rundown of what you need to know about Australia's first Dreamliner.

When can I fly Jetstar’s Boeing 787?

Jetstar expects to start flying the Boeing 787 on domestic routes within Australia by November, ahead of the Dreamliner being moved onto full international services in December.

Popular domestic routes from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth to the Gold Coast and Cairns are on the cards, although Jetstar has yet to make a final call on the 787's domestc trial and international launch routes.

When can I buy a ticket?

Not until the actual routes the 787 will fly are locked in, of course.

But expect Jetstar to go all out in promoting these special flights, so it’s not likely to slip past you unnoticed.

Will this be the first Boeing 787 service in Australia?

Alas, no. Air India beat Jetstar to the punch with the August 29 launch of a daily Boeing 787 service between Delhi and both Sydney and Melbourne.

Qatar Airways is yet to confirm when it intends to restart the previously announced daily Perth-Doha service, which was slated to begin on February 1 prior to the worldwide grounding of the Boeing 787 after a series of critical overheating problems with the lithium-ion battery system.

Also marking its Dreamliner dance card is Qantas partner Japan Airlines, which will start a Boeing 787 service between Sydney and Tokyo from December 1.

Will Jetstar’s Boeing 787 have business class?

Yes. Yoiu can cast aside visions of an all-economy 787, as Jetstar’s Boeing 787 will mimic the configuration of the Airbus A330s which it replaces.

This means a compact business class cabin of 21 seats (in a 2-3-2 layout, shown above), although most of the plane is given over to 314 economy seats (stacked 3-3-3, as seen below).

Also like Jetstar’s A330s, the business class seats will be recliners rather than having a lie-flat design.

“When you’re only flying five to ten hours, the amount the customers need to pay for a lie-flat seat, for the space it takes up, just doesn’t work out” Jetstar’s 787 director Mark Dal Pra told Australian Business Traveller.

Read: First look – Jetstar's Boeing 787 seats

What about legroom?

Legroom will also be comparable to Jetstar’s current A330 fleet, which has a seat pitch of 38 inches in business class and 31 inches in economy 

Seat pitch is an airline term which refers to the distance between the back of your seat, and the back of the seat in front of you – so this includes not also your legs but the depth of the seat itself.

Read: Understanding seat pitch, legroom and your ‘personal space’ on an airplane

While pitch is the best indicator of legroom, Jetstar’s 787 may feel a bit more spacious in economy because Jetstar has chosen new slimline seats which will also deliver a bit more space around your knees.

Is there inflight entertainment?

Perhaps surprisingly, yes. Some people expected Jetstar to continue renting out iPads, but every seat in its 787 will be fitted with a touchscreen providing video- on-demand along with games and seat-to-seat chat.

The system will allow ‘gate to gate’ use, so travellers can keep watching movies or listening to music during take-off and landing.

Business class seats will have a 10.6 inch display, with 9 inches in economy.

Every seat will also have a USB socket for charging smartphones and tablets, with an AC power socket for laptops in each business class seat and one socket and shared between every two seats in economy.

Why does Jetstar get the Boeing 787 before Qantas?

That Australia’s first Boeing 787 will carry that orange star rather than the red-and-white kangaroo of Qantas strikes many as a case of the tail wagging the dog.

The reason is Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce’s plan to simultaneously update both the Qantas and Jetstar fleets .

Jetstar has eleven Airbus A330s, each of which will be replaced by a factory-fresh Boeing 787 through to the end of 2015.

Those A330s will be handed down to Qantas so that the airline can retire its aging and fuel-thirsty Boeing 767s.

That aside, Jetstar says it’s in a position to make the most of Boeing’s newest jet, starting with its 20% greater fuel efficiency.

“Fuel is our biggest cost, so reducing fuel burn and increasing fuel efficiency lets us dramatically lower our operating costs” Del Par told Australian Business Traveller.

“We’re looking at a double-digit percentage reduction in operating costs from the A330 to the Boeing 787.” 

The Dreamliner’s construction using a large portion of carbon-fibre composites rather than metal also means longer periods between the regular ‘heavy maintenance’ checks.

Boeing says the 787 needs that check every 12 years compared to “six to eight years” for other aircraft.

When will Qantas get its own 787s?

Not before 2016, says Alan Joyce. That’s when Qantas’s optional order for up to 50 Boeing 787s kicks in, although the deliveries will be split in an as-yet-undecided ratio between Qantas and Jetstar.

Those aircraft will include the larger 787-9 model, which is a stretched version of the original 787-8 and capable of carrying up to 20% more passengers.

An earlier plan for Jetstar’s first 14 Dreamliners, which are the smaller 787-8 variant, to be passed down to Qantas was axed last year.

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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.

I'm just curious... 

To what extent is the development of Jetstar a strategy to address specific market segments within the Asia Pacific region?

Or to put it differently;

How effective is the Jetstar strategy in circumventing the existing Qantas industrial relations framework?


21 Oct 2012

Total posts 2

I am surprised that major checks are now every 12 years. For a new aircraft with new construction and materials you would expect shorter intervals to be expanded. It would be sad to see the 787 follow the fate of the A380 where wing cracks were only discovered after inspection following the mid-air explosion of QF32. This doesn't sound like a smart move by Boeing in their marketing of this next generation aircraft which can only be proven by service reliability. So far this aircraft has only seen 1 year in actual service by airlines.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Aug 2012

Total posts 171

AUSBT, we need an article discussing the new technology in the dreamliner and A350 for that matter.

Send a reporter to the Boeing factory or something, because if you did we would haven't ill informed posts about these new aircraft.  The new air frames don't need as regular maintenance because the new composite material is such a stronger construct. The rigorous testing was amazing and the results proved the strength conclusively.

Happy to go on behalf of AUSBT any time.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2554

Hi SCF - I'm sure you'd love to take a trip to Boeing! As it happens, I've been there a few times, including this week for the Jetstar/Qantas/Boeing 787 briefing. And I'm not sure which "ill-informed post" you're referring to – is there something in the article above that's factually incorrect?

As to an article on the new technology in the 787 and A350, we've covered that in previous articles on both jets. I might revisit that as a single article at some stage though.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Aug 2012

Total posts 171

Hi David,

I'm not talking about your articles, they're great hence why I keep returning to the site.

My post was based on comments in the comment sections being made about these new aircraft that are ill informed. The comment about service intervals, a previous post on a different thread about batteries etc...

I was also being a bit cheeky offering my 'journalistic services' for you, or lack thereof!  But an article covering the composite materials, the battery fix on the 787 would be great as there's some fear out there that's not warranted.

Please don't take that post as a dig on your website, absolutely not the case.

P.S. going to Boeing factory next year as part of the family holiday.


13 Dec 2012

Total posts 20

Agree with SCF. I was sold on the 787 from a visit to Everett. I think the design and construction story is an interesting one.

It might be good to show a few pictures of the fuse cross sections showing how the composites are woven to be thicker where they need to be...

I know that we've all heard the stories of bigger windows, better air pressure, less fatigue etc, but people might be interested in the how and why of that. I also wonder if anyone can attest to the validity of these claims.

At Everett visitors center there's a fuse section that you can get up close with in the entry lobby.

Composite is a far superior method of construction to all metal. Lighter, stronger etc, but I wonder about patchups - and maybe you could get some input from boeing on this.

If you look at pretty much any commercial airliner that's more than 10 years old there will be a patch on it (i.e. a piece of alluminium glued and rivetted across a damaged bit). How will they do this on a composite airliner?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2011

Total posts 363

Looking forward to flying on it!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 May 2012

Total posts 268

Very comprehensive and informative. I can't wait for a 787 service in Australia!


06 Jun 2013

Total posts 1

Configuration3 +3 +3in theeconomyismuch worse thanthe A330which has 2+4+2which I thinkis optimal.

Dreamlineralso hasnarrowerseats.
B787is becoming more ofacattletransport!

07 Jun 2013

Total posts 1

Like a lot of things the 787 sales are driven by money reasons on the part of airlines. Quite understandable but this appears to be overiding basic safety factors with this aircraft. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Jun 2013

Total posts 7


Any sign of a replacement for the Jetstar A320's that freqent ports like Newcastle ?, Any improvment of the "sardine box" would be welcome.. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Sep 2011

Total posts 24

Will Jetstar hand out, or will they sell, fireproof jackets?

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