Thomson Airways will be the first UK carrier to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner after confirming the initial aircraft is expected for delivery in summer 2010.
The charter airline formed from the merger of Thomsonfly and First Choice Airways will begin operating the Dreamliner from Gatwick in October 2010, most likely to Orlando although no decision has been taken. The aircraft will spend the summer flying around Europe as crew familiarise themselves with its systems.
The carrier expects to take delivery of a second 787 before the winter schedule, enabling it to begin daily long-haul operations.
The 787 is forecast to transform medium and long-haul flying by cutting the use of fuel, reducing jet lag and bringing a host of destinations within range of regional airports since its reduced weight allows take off from a shorter runway.
However, production has been seriously delayed and the aircraft's maiden flight is not due until the end of this year, with the first commercial flight not likely before autumn 2009.
TUI Travel product and marketing director Tim Williamson said: "It is a game-changing aircraft and you could see us begin new routes quickly - maybe Bristol-Cancun or Cardiff-Florida."
The carrier hopes to have the 787 to itself in the UK for some time. Williamson said: "We believe the gap between us getting the first and others receiving the aircraft has widened."
However, Williamson does not envisage charging passengers a premium to fly on the 787 - although he concedes the popularity of the aircraft, once people realise how different it is, could push up fares. "People will look for the 787 and it may command a premium price in time," he said.
The TUI Travel UK carriers will be re-branded as Thomson Airways from next May. Together they have 23 Boeing 787s on order.
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