Dreamliner ready to fly and "kill"

After getting FAA and EASA approval last week, yesterday also the Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau gave it's "thumbs up" for the B787-8. Launch customer All Nippon Airways can now go forward with it's plan to place the B787 into service.
After more than three long years of delays, the Dreamliner now becomes reality. And despite the first batch of aircraft will be overweight (one heard many different numbers) and the two competing engines obviously are in terms of SFC not where they should be, we can expect there now is an aircraft available that will bring economics never seen before.
The first international route ANA will fly with the B787 is Tokyo-Frankfurt.
 There are two other airlines flying this route also:
  1. Lufthansa with the A380. Both ANA and LH are members of the Star Alliance and have a joint venture for routes between Europe and Japan. Nevertheless it will be interesting to see how the B787 compares to the A380 on a per-seat basis.
  2. Japan Airlines with the B777-300ER. JAL is member of oneworld, thus a real competitior.
First of all, let us compare the cabins.
ANA is offering "only" 158 seats - but 46 or 29% of them are business class seats, 112 seats are in the economy class with 8 seats across, a spacious layout as most carriers opted for a 9 seat layout. Seat comfort thus is considerably better than in the A330/A340, where the 8 seats in economy class are in a cross section that is 7.5"  narrower.
All Nippon Airways B787-8 Cabin Layout (Image coutesy ANA) 
 There are several layouts of the B777-300ER at Japan Airlines. For comparison I choose the one that has the closest relation between premium and economy seats and this is a 4-class layout with nine seats in First Class, 63 in Business Class, 44 in Premium Economy and 156 in Economy (25.7% Premium/74.3% Economy).
Japan Airlines B777-300ER Cabin Layout (Inage courtesy seatguru.com)
The Lufthansa A380 is configured with 526 seats: 8 in first class, 98 in business class and 420 in economy class.

Now it is common sense that larger aircraft are more economical on a per-seat basis than smaller ones. In that sense a fuel burn comparison per seat between the 787-8, the 777-300ER and the A380 does not really make sense. But as you can see at the end of this article, we can still see how advanced the B787 is.

I used the openly available PIANO-X for the B787-8. I used the batch2 adjustments with the increased MTOW, as I think that maybe not the first but the majority of the aircraft will have that "standard" or will be better than that.
For the B777-300ER and the A380 I used PIANO 4.1, which I have access to.

At first glance, the results do not look good for the B787-8. Given here is the fuel burn/seat over seats.
Fuel burn/seat for Tokyo-Haneda (5068nm)
But if you put the share of premium seats on the x-axis, you get a slightly different picture. Draw a line through the B777-300ER and the A380 and you see that the B787-8 is better than it "should" be - here you can see the level of advantage the B787 offers.
Fuel burn/seat vs. premium seat ratio

The picture gets clearer if we compare fuel burn/seat for B787 layouts that would be comparable to the layouts of the JAL B777-300ER and the LH A380, i.e. having the same ratio of premium seats.
So I took out business class row and threw in economy class rows and came up with the following picture:

Fuel burn/seat for differenct premium seat ratios
As you an see the B787-8 is something what I would call a business class machine. The "penalty" to have a less dense seat layout is considerably lower than with the A380 and the B777-300ER, meaning that business class passengers are more profitable for the airline than ever - if you have them. But with the extra comfort that the "Dreamliners" provides (to all passengers, of course), ANA should have no problem to fill their seats, especially on typical business routes like Frankfurt-Tokyo.

And what about the closest competitor in terms of aircraft size - the A330-200.
For the same route it would burn about 790lbs/seat when filled with 158 passengers. This is 19% more than the B787-8. And if we look how Boeing is able to improve their aircraft once they are in service, I guess we can call the B787-8 the "A330-200 killer". Boeing just has to deliver the aircraft as fs as they can...


  1. With all due respect but the configurations are somewhat dissimilar and very hard to compare like with like. The B777 has a 4 class layout with 7 abreast J class and 4 abreast F class. The B787 has only J and Y class with J class seats being EY/EK style seats not like LH 6 abreast too.
    In very simple terms you could have put have factored revenue per seat like 1 for J class 0.3 for Y and 2.5 for F (or a similar yield/area comparator). Then interpolate the fuel burn.
    I would still use real flight plan data instead of PianoX, but well, nice tool.
    I am still not convinced the B787 will provide the necessary profit to make it the ideal aircraft due to it's "small" size. The B777 and A380, in real life will spill less passengers, create much more revenue per flight and with less cost, especially for the A380.


  2. To use factors for F, C and Y is not that different than just to compare ratios of premium to economy seats, I guess.
    Of course you can have more revenue with a larer aircraft, but only if you can fill the seats with paying passengers. It is all about risk vs. revenue...

  3. The B787-8 was designed as hub-killer and profit generator for low volume high yield routes. The Layout ANA provides surely goes a bit farer than the Boeing competition layout, but 200-250 PAX is a typical layout.
    I have difficulties interpreting the last figure, just as it's contradicting my understanding of flight performance. With slightly above 5000nm FRA-NRT is well inside the payload range of the B787-8, even with lots of ECO-class.

    Assuming similar LoD for A380 and B787, and comparable engine technology (within a few %), the weight per seat is the decisive parameter that decides on cruise performance.

    In order to make it easier, we take the zero-fuel weight. Assuming 115t OEW for Block1 B787-8, ZFW per seat at 830kg/seat. LH's A380 has (OEW 290t) roughly 650.

    If I assume higher share of ECO-pax and use 230 PAX (at similar OEW), I have roughly 600kg/PAX. So where does the A380 get its advantage from?

  4. Schorsch, for the B787-8 with OEW=115t and 156 pax I get 738kg/seat, with 230pax I get 500kg/seat, not 600kg/seat. For the A380 I get 551kg/seat.
    The advantage the A380 has is size, I would say...but it´'s only a real advantage if you can fill all the seats.

  5. I included the payload weight, therefore ZFW/seat. OEW per seat or Gross weight per seat are other possible means, but if we want to cancel the effect of low density cabin layout, ZFW/seat is a good option.

    The size advantage comes down to a weight advantage and a aerodynamic advantage, at least on the fuel burn side.

  6. What about below decks payload? Start plugging in cargo and the numbers slew. Unless, you have the discipline to keep to premium cargo.

  7. This is amongst the worst "analysis" that I've seen, and that includes a world where AirInsight said that the A321neo could be a transatlantic aircraft. And, sorry, but as someone who despatches A380s, the numbers for it are very generous, in the order of about 5%.

  8. Dreamliner ready to fly and "kill" is bad
    terminology for any respectable aviation
    business. Perhaps "compete" is the term
    implied. Boeing builds commercial aviation
    products that bring people closer together.
    Seating size, comfort, and economics will
    never be as important as safety and reliability.