First airline outside Japan to fly the Dreamliner is…Ethiopian Airlines

The African carrier has bought 10 of Boeing's most advanced passenger planes.

Ethiopian Airlines celebrates the arrival of its first Dreamliner with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Source: Boeing

Ethiopia is used to pipping Britain and America in Olympic marathons, and it seems it’s not just ahead on the track but in the skies too.

Ethiopian Airlines has become the first airline outside Japan to receive Boeing’s most technically advanced passenger plane, the 787 Dreamliner – as airlines in Europe, America and the Middle East sit tight and wait for theirs.

Ethiopian flew its first paying passengers on the next-gen 787 plane – named “Africa First” – between Washington Dulles (US) and Addis Ababa last week.

The plane is one of 10 Dreamliners on Boeing’s order books from Ethiopian, one of Africa’s fastest-growing carriers.

The airline has chosen a seating plan of 245 economy and 24 business class seats on the twin-engine, medium sized long-range jet.

The plane is currently serving routes within Africa.

Japan’s All Nippon Airways was the first airline to offer paying passengers a ride on the Dreamliner, followed by Japan Airlines.

United will be the first North American airline to be handed the keys to a 787 Dreamliner and will put the aircraft to work in September.

Eager Brits hoping to put the new Dreamliner and its jetlag reducing claims to the test will have to wait until next May, when Thomson Airways becomes the first UK airline to offer flights on the 787.

British Airways will get its hands on the Dreamliner later in 2013 alongside its first batch of A380s, followed by Virgin Atlantic in 2014.

You can take a virtual tour of the Ethiopian Airlines 787 Dreamliner on its website.

What’s unique about the Dreamliner?

Ethiopian's 'Cloud Nine' (business class) on the 787. Source: Ethiopian Airlines

No window shades: passengers can vary the amount of light coming through the window by the push of a button.

A better window view: Boeing says the windows are 30 percent bigger than any other commercial aircraft in service today.

Mood lighting aimed at helping passengers adjust to the time zones.

Better comfort: As the plane is built from composite materials, the cabin can be pressurised to a lower altitude than a traditional aluminum airframe. That means higher humidity levels in the cabin and less dryness in the air.

A quieter ride for passengers: the 787 is said to produce 60 percent less noise than similar sized aircraft.

Lower operating costs for airlines: the jet is 20 percent more fuel efficient than other similar sized aircraft.

A 18-hour, 8,500-mile range that allows the 787 to serve new long-haul destinations directly that other jets can’t reach. No wonder it’s been nicknamed a ‘hub buster.’

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