Tokyo (TheStreet) -- The race is on to be the first airline to operate the first variant of the Boeing (BA) 787 Dreamliner, with two airlines -- ANA and Air New Zealand -- engaged in an intense competition.
ANA took delivery of its first 787-9 on July 27 and plans to operate it Monday, Aug. 4, on a non-revenue charter flight for Japanese and American elementary school students who reside in Japan.
ANA said Thursday that it will first fly the airplane on a revenue flight on Thursday, Aug. 7. The carrier had not previously specified a start date for revenue service, but Air New Zealand had, announcing that it would fly the first commercial 787-9 flight on Saturday, Aug. 9.
ANA was the launch customer for the Dreamliner and is now the world's largest 787 customer, with 28 total 787-8s in service. It has ordered 80 aircraft, including 36 of Boeing's 787-8s and 44 of its 787-9s.
"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 CEO Osamu Shinobe, in a prepared statement. "[It] will allow us to meet growing demand that is anticipated ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics."
ANA said it will launch scheduled service on Thursday, gradually introducing the planes on routes between Haneda, Osaka and Matsuyama, "as ANA becomes the first airline in the world to operate the scheduled flight of 787-9."
Air New Zealand, launch customer for the 787-9, took its first delivery on July 9. It will operate its first 787-9 revenue flight, from Auckland to Sydney, on Saturday, Aug. 9 -- unless it makes a change in the next several days.
"The 787-9 is schedule to operate between Auckland and Sydney on a surprise and delight basis from 9 August," an Air New Zealand spokeswoman told Australian Business Traveller for its July 25 edition, adding that "all else being equal, this will be the first commercial flight."
Air New Zealand crews will gain 787 experience on the Auckland-Sydney flight. The airline will begin Auckland-Perth 787-9 service on Oct. 15, the publication said.
Boeing said 26 customers have ordered 421 of the 787-9s, accounting for about 40% of all 787-orders. The customers include United (UAL), which will put its first 787-9 into service on the Los Angeles/Melbourne route in October. United has 26 of the 787-9s on order.
Boeing shares closed down 1.48% on Wednesday to $120.48.
The 787-8 seats 242 passengers in Boeing's standard configuration. It has a range of 7,850 miles and is 180 feet long. The 787-9 seats 280 passengers, has a range of 8,300 miles and is 206 feet long. The 787-10 will seat 323 passengers, have a range of 7,020 miles and be 224 feet long.