Qantas welcomes first Boeing 787-9

Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZNA lands at Sydney Airport. (James Morgan/Qantas)
Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZNA lands at Sydney Airport. (James Morgan/Qantas)

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce says touchdown of the airline’s first Boeing 787-9 represents something of a rebirth of the 97-year-old Australian flag carrier.

The aircraft, VH-ZNA Great Southern Land, landed at 0700 local time on Friday morning, after its 10-hour delivery flight QF7879 from Honolulu, Hawaii.

After a short wait, the 787-9 was towed to Hangar 96 at the Qantas jetbase, receiving an Airservices Aviation Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) monitor cross on the way.

About 1,500 people were inside Hangar 96 to greet Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce, airline staff, invited guests and journalists stepping off the flight from Honolulu.

Speaking to the crowd after disembarking the aircraft, Joyce hailed the end of what has been a long wait for the first 787 to appear in Qantas colours, given the airline first ordered the type in 2005.

“The moment has finally come,” Joyce said.

“This in some way to me is a bit about the rebirth of Qantas.

“We can look so much forward to our second century stronger and more determined to be a world leader than we have ever been.”

Further, Joyce said what Qantas had done on its 787-9 passenger experience represented the best of Australian talent, given industrial designer David Caon’s work on the seats, the University of Sydney’s Professor Steve Simpson’s work on the science of long-haul travel and chef Neil Perry’s efforts on the food.

“This is an amazing aircraft because of all that talent,” Joyce said.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce. (Seth Jaworski)
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce. (Seth Jaworski)

Those in attendance were also treated to a performance of the iconic song Great Southern Land from Australian musician Iva Davies, who was on the delivery flight from Seattle, and his band Icehouse.

Iva Davies performs at Qantas's Hangar 96. (Seth Jaworski)
Iva Davies and Icehouse perform at Qantas’s Hangar 96. (Seth Jaworski)

The arrival of VH-ZNA was the culmination of a near week-long series of events that started with the official unveiling of the aircraft at Boeing’s Everett facility on Monday (US time), including the naming of the aircraft Great Southern Land.

Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZNA at Boeing's Everett Facility. (Gerard Frawley)
Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZNA at Boeing’s Everett Facility on Monday evening. (Gerard Frawley)

On Tuesday, the 787-9, which is configured with 236 seats across business, premium economy and economy, took off from Paine Field, landing in Honolulu, Hawaii, some five hours later.

Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZNA at Honolulu Airport. (Gerard Frawley)
VH-ZNA at Honolulu Airport on Wednesday evening. (Gerard Frawley)

The aircraft, and travelling party, spent the night in Honolulu before departing on the final leg of the journey to Australia just before midnight (local time) on Wednesday.

Some 10 hours later, the city of Sydney welcomed the first 787-9 to be operated by an Australian airline with showers and overcast conditions.

Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZNA flies over Sydney. (James Morgan/Qantas)
VH-ZNA flies over Sydney. (James Morgan/Qantas)
Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZNA heads to Hangar 96. (James Morgan/Qantas)
VH-ZNA heads to Hangar 96. (James Morgan/Qantas)
Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZNA at Sydney Airport. (Victor Pody/Qantas)
VH-ZNA at Sydney Airport. (Victor Pody/Qantas)
Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZNA receives an ARFF monitor cross. (Victor Pody/Qantas)
VH-ZNA receives an Airservices ARFF monitor cross. (Victor Pody/Qantas)

Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZNA enters Hangar 96. (Seth Jaworski)
VH-ZNA enters Hangar 96. (Seth Jaworski)

Qantas has ordered eight 787-9s, with the first four to be based in Melbourne and operate via a Los Angeles-Mebourne-Perth-London Heathrow pattern.

The second batch of four will be based in Brisbane, with two used to replace the Boeing 747-400/400ER on the Brisbane-Los Angeles-New York JFK route and two to open up a new route.

It is understood VH-ZNA would be in Sydney for a week before flying down to Melbourne. The aircraft will be used on some domestic routes from Melbourne to Perth and Sydney ahead of commencing long-haul operations in December.


  1. Blake Longshaw says

    Looks amazing! I can’t wait to see it over here in the West. In my opinion no matter how much technology you put into an extraordinary plane, 17 hours is still a very long time to spend in a 60m long tube.

  2. Craigy says

    Having done over 17 hours in economy in an A380 to Dallas from Sydney and coping extremely well, I don’t see 17 hours in economy in a B789 being that bad. I am 6’1.

  3. ben lang says

    could someone please tell me when it is coming to Melbourne as i am a spotter and want to catch this beauty

  4. Paul says


    Surely you jest, 787 Y seats (bar JAL) have noticeably less seat width than an A380 Y seat. They are poles apart when you have been sitting in them for 12+ hours.

  5. Paul says

    Agree, A380 seat is wider and more comfortable than any 9 abreast 787 seat!

    While seat width is important to comfort, some Airlines I have flown on recently, seem to be reducing the padding to the bare minimum?
    These seats then become very uncomfortable if you have to sit in them for long periods!

  6. Scott says

    The media coverage of this is quite amazing. You would think QF is the launch customer and first to operate into Australia the way this is being portrayed. Other airlines have been operating the aircraft for years here already, the livery does look very nice on this airframe though.
    The 17inch wide Economy seats are going to be very tight, they are the narrowest width of any Australian airlines long haul aircraft, but it’s the newest!

  7. Jasonp says

    Scott, the media coverage has been amazing because Qantas knows how to do promotions and media management. They are the benchmarks!

  8. Andrew Stone says

    The actual delay in the arrival of this aircraft represents the failure of Joyce as a CEO. Qantas still has too many configurations of aircraft and again a failure of the overpaid Joyce. The sooner Joyce is gone the better..

  9. Jonathan says

    it’s a 787, for goodness’ sake!
    there are many others in service already around the globe.
    yet because it’s a qantas 787, all of a sudden it’s a big deal.
    yet another opportunity for Joyce grandstanding.
    as if $26 million a year isn’t enough …

  10. Jonathan says

    compared to modern qantas, Eva Air is by far and away the better airline.
    any class you choose …

  11. Patrickk says

    Scott, QF had Jetstar as the launch to first build up its A330 stocks without extra cost while looking at any possible issues on the 787 without the loss of face of the mainline entity having to deal with it, also while lowering JQs costs, also while maxing out depreciation on the 747s. Seems a wise move to me.

  12. Stuart lawrence says

    Flying a 787 with a stop over and this good. Qantas should now decide wether it flies an all Boeing fleet of 787 and 737 and 717 or airbus a 380 330 and 320s SAS and TAP and FINAIR have all airbus fleets and japan airline and air india are all boeing

  13. Skystar says

    @ patrickk

    The A330s went to JQ as they were starting international services and they were not going to be using unreliable 767-300s as they put it and they took QFs A332s delivered in the 2000s to cover the delivery delays of the 787 so not sure what your talking about in building up A330 stocks.Why did a business case have to be put forward for the 789 before it was ordered for mainline when the 788 was always earmarked to go to the low cost carrier.

  14. Scott says

    @ Patrickk
    That plan does read very very sound. That looks like a great strategy, QF obviously has done a fantastic job if it worked out the way you explain.
    However the current hysteria in the Media and all the song and dance, about the launch is way out of step with commercial reality.
    Air Nz, Etihad, JAL, ANA, Royal Brunei, Vietnam airlines and many more have been operating this airframe to OZ for years.
    I understand the 330 bit your saying they came back to QF from JQ to build the numbers up while they got 788’s.

  15. Craigy says

    @ Andrew Stone You clearly don’t know the history of the Qantas B787 order. When the aircraft was originally ordered, the first aircraft (B788) were to go to Jetstar so the A332 aircraft could return to the mainline fleet. When the B789 was available, they first 15 would go to Jetstar and the B788 would be transfered to Qantas mainline. With the delays in the program and the Qantas Board decided that debt needed to be paid down and Qantas International, which had been losing hundreds of millions yearly, had to be fixed before any new aircraft would be purchased for Qantas International. So apart for the aircraft on order for Jetstar (15 down to 11), the remaining firm orders were cancelled. Qantas Board and Management stated that once International was returned to profitability, a positive business case, and an acceptable pilots agreement, Qantas would order the B789 for Qantas International. This is what happened and so the aircraft have finally been purchased. This would not have been possible if nothing was done to the cost base and other facets of the business. The partnership with Emirates has contributed to the turnaround of the international arm. On that score, I would say that Joyce has done exceedingly well.

    I fail to see you argument on aircraft configurations and how it is a failure.

    Re the hysteria around the arrival. The press and others seem to neglect the fact that Qantas see this as a game changer principally because of the range, fuel savings and route opportunities not currently available. As for those who say the seats are too narrow compared to the A380, according to the seat guru, the Qantas A380 seats in economy are 17.5″ wide compared to the 17.2″ on the B789.

  16. Skystar says

    @stu bee

    Did you work on them mate?During line turnarounds they consistently had incoming defects and an ancient IFE system and substantial defect rectification on the overnight services.Read about the examples that went to Westjet and the issues they have had with them.Not what a low cost carrier bases their operation on spending bucks on maintenance.Thats my basis.

  17. Kim says

    No welcome to Adelaide. Might see it overfly our city on way to Perth catching the jetstream. So long Great Southern Land. Hello Qatar, Emirates, Malaysian and Singapore who call Adelaide “home”!

  18. Ian says

    It looks great even with that abomination of a rat on the tail…but 17 hours in a hard, narrow 17 inch wide cattle class seat at 9 across is just awful …no amount of Joyce’s rhetoric can enhance that. Give me an A380 any time.

  19. Jeff Carswell says

    Great to see the 787-9 finally arriving. Hopefully QANTAS can now look at improving Frequent Flyer and Customer Services operations which are very poor.

  20. ESLowe says

    It was a great plane to fly on from L.A. to Melbourne, but United didn’t put in seats that let you snooze. The seats on the QANTAS A380 were fine for that …I think we all dozed off before we reached Hawaii and didn’t wake up until Fiji. BUT if one of you here flies on the Qantas 787 can you let me know if they put in the sky camera on the tail the way I asked QANTAS about. I doubt if they did. .

  21. AlanH says

    What I don’t understand is why it was received in Sydney when the whole fleet is going to be based in Melbourne and Brisbane. Wot the? Sydney certainly is Qantas Central. It’s pathetic! Given that Jetstar (Qantas) has had the 787-8s for four years now, I don’t see what all the “hoopla” is about. Who wants to spend 4 hours flying MEL-PER and then another 17.5 hrs flying PER-LHR and get all excited about it being a non-stop flight from Oz to Ol’ Blighty! Not me! I’d rather opt for SIA out of CBR on a B777-200 thanks and then SIN-LHR in one of their A380s with the exemplary service that goes with it!

  22. Charles Falkiner says

    I hope the deafening flap motors have been silenced.Having flown both the 787 and 380 from the usa and back, the 380 wins hands down. The 787 is really just another Boeing widebody and the howling flap motors a disgrace , as are the seating arrangements. 380 for ever

  23. Gary says

    Alan – Last time I checked QANTAS has corporate HQ in Mascot, hence the ceremony in Sydney and before you gripe about me being a Sydney sider, I live in Adelaide. The ‘hoopla’ as you call it surrounding the B7879 is that it will be a game changer for QF, yes JQ have operate it for a number of years; however, this aircraft will reset the goal posts for QF. Happy for you to fly SIA from CBR and kiss your knees all the way over. The least amount of legroom I have ever experienced in Y has been in SQ and MH.

  24. AlanH says

    Thanks Gary, but I’m sure I have read that the SIA B777-200s have 34 inch seat pitch, as opposed to the new B787-9s for Qantas only having 32 inch pitch (and 17.2 inches wide). 8.5 hours to SIN would be preferable to 17.5 hours to LHR on those figures. I think the only “game changer” about the B787-9 coming to Qantas will be for Qantas itself, not its pax. Still, I’m just an armchair whinger. I’ll probably not get a chance to fly in one now and if I did I would probably opt to fork out for Premium Economy! (Shame Adelaide is missing out on them too). Cheers!

  25. sjb nyc says

    Better late than never I guess. QF must be the last airline on the planet to finally fly the Dreamliner. Maybe it’s a Snoozeliner at QF because its taken so long.