Air Canada will begin flying the 787 Dreamliner from Toronto to Tokyo/Haneda this July, the first scheduled use of an aircraft that is expected to increase the airline’s capacity to fly long-haul routes.

The Dreamliner will begin service on the Toronto to Tel Aviv route later this summer, then take on flights from Vancouver to Tokyo and Shanghai in the winter of 2014-2015. Air Canada has ordered 37 Dreamliners — at a total cost of $6 billion — and will bring 15 of them into service starting in September.

As pilots learn to become familiar with the plane between now and July, it will also turn up on some Canadian routes, including flying Toronto to Halifax on Friday.

Air Canada unveiled the roll-out plan Tuesday in Toronto, as it showed of the first of its Boeing Dreamliners at a media event.

“The Dreamliner will be a game-changer for an airline like Air Canada,” said Robert Kokonis, managing director of consultancy AirTrav told CBC News. “It will allow it to open up a bunch of routes that today are marginally profitable or not profitable at all.”

Dreamliner

The Dreamliner has the potential to build Air Canada's long-haul business. (CBC)

The Dreamliner has two advantages that will help Air Canada with its stated ambition to be a “global airline.”

It is more comfortable than older aircraft – less noisy, with more legroom, even in economy class, and amenities such as better cabin pressure and more humidity, as well as special lighting cycles, that are meant to help reduce jetlag.

“People will feel like they’ve got a bit more space around them. Over a long overseas journey, that’s fantastic,” Kokonis said.

Cutting fuel costs

But for an operating airline, the key point is that the Dreamliner more fuel-efficient than Air Canada’s current fleet of long-haul aircraft. With fuel charges amounting to about 30 per cent of operating costs, that could be a significant savings.

“It will allow us to have the economics that we need to really move into new markets and give a lot of new services for Air Canada,” said Craig Landry, Air Canada’s vice-president of marketing.

He called the Dreamliner’s amenities the new “international standard” for the airline.

Today, Air Canada announced it had launched new services to Geneva, Brussels, Athens, Barcelona, Istanbul, Nice, Lisbon, Edinburgh, Manchester, Milan and Rio, part of an expansion it has been rolling out over the last year. It also plans to increase its service to the U.S. and Asia.

Asia is particularly promising market, as the growing middle class in India and China clamours to travel.

Kokonis speculates the airline will soon announce service to secondary cities in China, such as Guangzhou or Hangzhou.

Promising new routes

“This aircraft has the right range – the right number of seats. It’s very fuel efficient and very light. This will be the type of aircraft that will make Delhi or even Mumbai work for Air Canada,” he said.

The Dreamliner has 251 seats, compared to 211 in the 767. There are two premium cabins – business class and premium economy, a new option for comfort on long haul flights, as well regular economy class. 

It’s also geared to appeal to family travel, with individual entertainment centres for each seat, equipped with a choice of games and movies.

Air Canada plans to announce more routes that will have Dreamliner service over the next few months.