Jetstar readies Dreamliner launch

Budget carrier to fly new Dreamliner on Melbourne-Gold Coast route.

Budget carrier Jetstar will fly its new high-tech Dreamliner aircraft from Melbourne to the Gold Coast, starting in November.

Qantas (QAN) and Jetstar chief executives Alan Joyce and Jayne Hrdlicka have toured Boeing's factory in Seattle, as the group prepares to take delivery of its first Dreamliner in Melbourne on Wednesday.

Ahead of the maiden flight to Australia, Jetstar has announced that tickets for the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight would soon go on sale for travel between Melbourne and the Gold Coast on November 13.

But this is subject to approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, which is required for all new aircraft types.

Dreamliner services will also operate between Melbourne and Cairns before international services are launched towards the end of 2013.

Qantas has ordered 14 Dreamliners, which will gradually replace Jetstar's Airbus A330 aircraft which fly to long-haul destinations like Honolulu, Phuket, Bali and Tokyo.

The A330s then will be moved into the Qantas mainline fleet, as part of a plan to retire ageing and less fuel efficient Boeing 767s by mid-2015.

Qantas also has options for 50 Boeing 787s from calendar 2016.

During the factory floor tour, Mr Joyce addressed reliability concerns about the Dreamliner.

"The 787, like any new aircraft, has had a number of teething problems with its introduction but it's actually had a smoother introduction than the 777 which is the last large aircraft that Boeing introduced," he said.

Last month, budget airline Norwegian Air Shuttle demanded Boeing take back a Dreamliner and fix a faulty hydraulic pump after only 30 days in service.

"It's important to distinguish reliability from safety. Sometimes in people's minds they can be really concerned," Mr Joyce said.

"Reliability in new aircraft takes a while to get up there. It's not a safety issue.

"We're very comfortable this is an extremely safe aircraft."

Boeing 787 vice president and general manager Larry Loftis said the ambition to build the most technologically advanced aircraft in five decades had been a logistical challenge since production began in 2007.

"From a reliability standpoint ... we're working to make sure the airplane continually improves and becomes more and more reliable," he told reporters.

"We put a lot of new technology in this aircraft and over-estimated the ability to bring this new technology to market in the time frame which we committed."

The Dreamliner is 20% more fuel efficient than comparable wide-bodied aircraft with about 300 seats.

It uses carbon fibre composite graphite instead of traditional aluminium.

But 50 Dreamliner jets were grounded globally in January when lithium-ion batteries caught fire on two Japanese airlines.

They returned to the skies in April but an emergency transmitter on a Boeing 787 caught fire at London's Heathrow airport in July on an Ethiopian Airlines plane.

Mr Joyce said the lighter Dreamliners would reduce fuel costs in the Qantas group, and help enable the airline to have an even younger fleet than Singapore Airlines "in the next couple of years which we haven't seen in a long time".

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