The race is on between All Nippon Airways and Air New Zealand for bragging rights as the first airline to operate the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on a scheduled commercial flight.
Air NZ was the first to take delivery of the new aircraft, when the all-black painted ZK-NZE landed at Auckland Airport on July 11.
The 787 has been used for two staff training and proving flights and since then, operating to Sydney on Friday and to RNZAF Base Ohakea (a designated alternate to Auckland) on Monday as Air New Zealand gets crews certified to operate the aircraft.
It was scheduled to make its commercial debut on August 9 from Auckland to Sydney, Air NZ said on Twitter.
Meanwhile, ANA took delivery of its first 787-9 on July 29, when JA-830A landed at Tokyo Haneda Airport.
While ANA has a sightseeing flight for Japanese and American students pencilled in for August 4 with the 787-9, the carrier has not given a definite start date for commercial service or revealed specific routes.
ANA said in a statement on July 24 the 787-9, which the airline has fitted with 18 premium class and 377 economy seats for domestic flights, would begin service on Japanese routes from August onwards.
The airline’s 787-8s have 335 seats in a two-class configuration for domestic services.
“The 787 Dreamliner is a key element in our growth strategy and we are proud to be the first airline to fly both models of the 787 family,” said ANA chief executive Osamu Shinobe said in a statement.
ANA currently has 29 787s in its fleet, with a total of 80 on order. Air NZ has ordered 10 787-9s.
Elsewhere, United Airlines will operate the 787-9 on the Melbourne-Los Angeles route from October, while Etihad Airways planned to begin flights with the stretched version of the Dreamliner from its Abu Dhabi hub to Brisbane in January 2015.
Although no route details have been released, the Singapore Airlines-owned low-cost carrier Scoot, which flies to the Gold Coast and Sydney, will receive its first 787-9 by the end of the year as replacement for its current 777-200 fleet.