BRITISH Airways’ first passenger flight on its new Boeing 787 Dreamliner took off from Edinburgh this afternoon, with business and tourism chiefs enjoying a one-hour flight over the Highlands and Islands.
Despite a series of faults with other Dreamliners which have caused fires and emergency landings, the BA aircraft arrived and departed on schedule, arriving in the Scottish capital at 1:56pm and taking off with its VIP passengers shortly after 5pm.
BA operations director Andy Lord stressed that following the other incidents, it would take no chances.
He said: “Safety is our absolute first priority, and the aircraft would not be in service with us if it was not 100 per cent safe to operate, and we were happy to operate it.”
The Dreamliner which visited Edinburgh yesterday is the first of 24 on order, with an expected 18 more to follow. They will be spread across the airline’s long-haul network before being used to launch new routes in around 18 months’ time.
Those due on board included Gleneagles Hotel chairman Peter Lederer, VisitScotland chairman Mike Cantlay and Harvey Nichols regional stores director Gordon Drummond.
The visit was part of a UK tour by the 787 ahead of its introduction to commercial service tomorrow on BA’s Heathrow-Stockholm route, a warm-up before taking up regular duties on Heathrow-Toronto flights from 1 September, and Heathrow-New York (Newark) services on 1 October.
BA has no plans to fly the aircraft from Scotland again, but Thomson Airways has operated Dreamliners on its existing Glasgow to Florida and Mexico routes since last month.
However, experts said the plane’s superior fuel economy could be the catalyst for new long-distance routes being launched from Scotland.
Aviation analyst Laurie Price said: “Despite its significant teething problems, a situation not unknown with the introduction of new aircraft types, BA’s acquisition of the 787, much of which is built in the UK, is a major step forward in the standard of passenger service, performance, comfort and payload/range capability.
“For passengers, it offers a greatly improved cabin environment, with larger windows and specialist lighting, whilst also offering significantly improved air conditioning and ‘cabin altitude’ set at 6,000ft, not 8,000ft, as on previous aircraft types.
“On top of that, the 787’s 20 per cent plus improvement in fuel burn will improve the operating economics of many thinner long haul routes, potentially making the development of more direct long haul services from larger regional airports such as Edinburgh and Glasgow viable. “Though whether that would be by BA is less likely in the short term and more likely by an overseas airline from its hub.
BA’s rivals on its initial long-haul Dreamliner routes professed to be untroubled by the new arrival, which is seen as a potentially big attraction for passengers because of the effects of jet lag are claimed to be reduced by the aircraft’s lower cabin pressure, less harsh lighting and relative quiet compared to other planes.
However, Virgin Atlantic, which competes with BA on Edinburgh-Heathrow and many long-haul routes such as from the London hub to New York, will not get the first of its 16 Dreamliners until September next year.
A spokeswoman said: “We have seen great customer demand for our Edinburgh-Heathrow route on Little Red. We have excellent connection times onto our long-haul network and Scottish customers are enjoying the Virgin Atlantic experience door-to-door for their entire journey.”
The plane landed safely at Edinburgh Airport around 6.10pm.
Stuart Birkett, managing director of Scotsman owner Johnston Press Scotland, who was on the flight, said: “The aircraft was smooth and quiet, but will probably be more of a game changer from a financial point of view - its fuel economy - than the passenger experience, which was not desperately different from other aircraft.”
The plane flew over Aberdeen and the Moray Firth before returning via Perth.
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