Abu Dhabi welcomes Boeing Dreamliner 787

The Boeing Dreamliner 787, the plane described as a "game-changer" for the aviation industry, touched down in Abu Dhabi for the first time last night.

The first Boeing Dreamliner 787 to land at Abu Dhabi International Airport sits on the tarmac. Photo courtesy Etihad Airways
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The plane described as a "game-changer" for the aviation industry touched down in Abu Dhabi for the first time last night.

Etihad Airways is set to become one of the biggest operators in the world of the Boeing Dreamliner 787.

Topping off a seven-month global tour with its arrival in the capital, the Dreamliner is the most fuel efficient plane of its type in the world and is set to become the most common aircraft in Etihad's fleet.

Abu Dhabi's flag carrier has 41 787s on order and has purchase options on 25 more.

The Dreamliner is 20 per cent more fuel efficient than other aircraft of its kind, making it an attractive option for global airlines struggling with high jet fuel prices and decreasing profitability.

"It can be considered a game-changer," said John Downey, the chief pilot for the Dreamliner at Etihad, which is due to take delivery of its first plane in October 2014. "By the end of the decade, fuel prices could have doubled and you might have to retire less efficient planes."

Etihad announced in December it would buy 12 more 787s, worth US$2.8 billion (Dh10.28bn), taking its total order to 41. Qatar Airways was one of the first buyers of the plane and is expected to take delivery of its first Dreamliner this month.

"This is our first stop in Abu Dhabi," said Lori Gunter, the head of communications for the Dreamliner. "Etihad is a very important client customer for us and this is our last stop on the tour."

The plane has visited Boeing suppliers and customers in more than 30 cities in the past seven months.

After a delay of three years, Al Nippon Airlines was the first carrier to receive a Dreamliner in October.

Ms Gunter said Boeing was producing three and a half planes per month at its two production lines in the United States and it hoped to increase that figure to 10 per month by the end of next year.

The Dreamliner is made of composite materials, such as carbon fibre and graphite, which make up 50 per cent of the weight of the plane.

It has windows that are 30 to 60 per cent larger than other planes and a ceiling that is more than six foot high in the cabin.

"It's going to be a very fuel efficient aircraft," said Mr Downey, who added the airline would look at exercising its options on more 787s in the future.

"We have a very new fleet at the moment, but in eight years time, we might be thinking that the aircraft are getting a little old."

The Dreamliner is the most successful aircraft in Boeing's history after 800 initial orders.

This year has been a strong one for the US manufacturer so far, which has pipped its main rival Airbus in both the number of planes delivered and ordered.

In the first quarter of this year, the Boeing secured 80 per cent of new aircraft orders, compared with 20 per cent for Airbus.

Last year, Airbus ended the year with 64 per cent of aircraft ordered, leaving Boeing with just 36 per cent.

Apart from 2006, Airbus has been leading Boeing on orders since 2001. During the past 15 years, the demand for air travel has doubled, according to figures compiled by the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization.

Etihad increased its equity stake in Virgin Australia Holdings to nearly 5 per cent, it said yesterday, following news that the Abu Dhabi carrier plans to seek a larger Asian footprint.

The airline had said on Tuesday it had paid $35.6 million through market purchases over the past few weeks for a 3.96 per cent holding in Australia's second-largest airline.

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