Why is the Dreamliner so successful?
Answered by: Lachie Smith,I have over 60 model aircraft in my collection.
The 787 is so successful for stacks of reasons. Here’s the three biggest ones:
When the 787–8 was first released, it was offered at just $120 million. That sounds like a lot, but for context that’s cheaper than an A320NEO or 737MAX. It has now risen to a more responsible $200m, which still makes it one of the cheapest aircraft of its size on the market. Keep that number in your head when I tell you this next figure.
The Airbus A350–900 (the smallest one available) sells for only $318 million. Yes, it’s a bit bigger than a Dreamliner, but even then it’s still as expensive as a 777–300ER, which is larger.
Still one of my favourite political cartoons due to its simplicity.
It’s important to mention at this point the A330NEO. That aircraft will come up a lot in this answer, because unlike the A350, it is the Dreamliner’s direct competition. The A350 was meant to kill two birds with one stone for the 777X and 787, but was later redesigned to be larger and more competitive to the 777X, leaving Airbus the painful task of rushing the A330 upgrade to fight the Dreamliner.
On a price point, the A330NEO is cheaper than the 787.
As many people know from the A220, MD-10, or A380, a plane is more than a plane. It is an investment. I love sitting around and watching, talking about, and reading about planes but the truth is that the people who actually buy them couldn’t care less. As you’ll see soon, the 787 performs super well and has so many other features that make it such an awesome aircraft, but aside from maybe a promotional picture in their office the airline executives don’t really care about those things.
Politics, I would argue, matter more than MTOW, training, cost, or anything else. They are the most important selling point of any plane. Just look at Qantas: they’ve been offered a plane with nearly the same cockpit as their current 787s, with better performance and MTOW, that has more route flexibility, and the option down the road to replace their A380s with a larger variant. Do you think they’re choosing the A350–1000ULR because it looks pretty? Because it has commonality with their aging A330s? Because passengers will find the cabin nicer? Of course not. Airbus has most likely placed a huge discount on this aircraft and with the media attacking Boeing, they have no choice but to preselect it. We can only hope they make the right choice.
So why is the 787 so good with politics?
Because the Dreamliner is barely an American plane at all. 13 companies from Korea, Japan, Italy, Canada, Sweden, England, France, and Australia, as well as five states of the USA all build various parts of this aircraft. So which airlines have a lot of 787s? Korean Air, JAL, ANA, Air Canada, WestJet, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Air France, AF/KLM, Qantas, Jetstar, and four massive American airlines (NorthWest and Continental being the other two).
In addition, Bangladesh, Brunei, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and (kinda) Vietnam governments all use 787s for private use. Thus Bangladesh Airways, Royal Brunei, AeroMexico, and Saudia were all pressured to order this aircraft.
All of these various countries who had involvement or interest in the Dreamliner series were inclined to buy the aircraft.
Performance and design
This is by far the biggest reason the 787 was popular. Many people today compare it to the A330NEO and A350, which is all well and good, but you have to remember that in 2008 the three closest competitors to the 787 were the A330, A340, and A380.
The A330 competed for capacity. In this regard, the two aircraft were very similar however the 787–8 has slightly less seats than the A330–200 and the 787–9 has more seats than the A330–300 (the release of the 787–10 was again to mainly compete with the A350–800, but when the Dreamliner was first released it was only the -8 and -9).
The A340, particularly the -500, competed for range. The A340–500 has a bit more range than the 787 (more than any other aircraft at the time), however has much more seats and absolutely flopped in terms of efficiency and sales. A lot of those sales were also lost to the 777NG and A380.
The A380 competed for efficiency. Per seat, it’s the most efficient out of the 787’s three early Airbus competitors. Of course per mile or per hour it’s not, but that’s a different story.The A380 did what the original 747 did to the 707 in the 1970s - it allowed airlines to buy one plane instead of two. Why would you have two daily flights from Sydney to Singapore on the A330 or 787, when you could have one heavily discounted flight that produces the same profit margin?Ultimately, the A380 did steal sales from at least one Dreamliner customer: Lufthansa. But even then, the production run of the 787 was so long that they had time to order 787s even after their A380s had been delivered, flown, and placed into pre-retirement storage.
What you have to consider is that the 787 did something that nobody thought was possible - seat fewer people than a 777 with even more comfort, fly further than a 747 with half the fuel capacity, and be so profitable that airlines have placed their second and even third blocks of orders.
And it’s not just the long-haul efficiency that turned heads.
Those two GEnX-1B turbofans, combined with enough lift and drag reduction to fly a skyscraper, and a fuselage so light it practically floats, result in one of the best performing widebody airliners in history.
In fact, the Dreamliner’s flying display at Farnborough Air Show 2014 was so hectic and impressive that the aircraft brought on a new set of rules dictating how manoeuvres should be performed to prevent other planes from crashing.
There’s other factors like range, efficiency, speed, comfort, simplicity, modernity, and many more that influenced the Dreamliner’s success.
But the simple fact remains: the Boeing 787 is the new widebodied 737. In fact, the 787 is such a successful plane that countless airlines like Norwegian Air Shuttle, Bamboo Airways, and ZIPair have used 787s to launch their long-haul fleet, moving from A320s or MD-80s to Dreamliners because they’re essentially just a very big 737.
So that’s why the 787 is such a spectacular success.
Hope this helps!
Edit: I really don’t care if you think I’m biased towards Boeing. The question was “why is the Dreamliner successful”, not “what do you think of the Dreamliner”. Honestly, I’m actually happier because it means you took the time to read my answer. So why don’t you share it with all your friends and tell them what a horrible answer this is? Maybe upvote it so more people can be aware of how awful it is? ;)