The order that put the 8 in 787 has taken another turn.
Late Tuesday on the east coast, Air China revealed its plans for its 787 fleet. The carrier, which originally was supposed to be the Dreamliner's second customer, has converted its order for 15 787-8s to 787-9s for delivery beginning in 2015, seven years after Air China first expected to see its first 787s.
The Chinese carriers that launched the 787 in January 2005 with the 2008 Beijing Olympics in mind, backed away from the early -8 airframes in April 2009, opting to shift many of the delivery slots to launch customer All Nippon Airways, which required both a rapid boost in capacity, as well as a capable medium-haul aircraft to replace the nearly-defunct 787-3.
Air China said it received "significant price concessions" for the conversion of its order to the -9. The carrier's initial 2005 order, says one person familiar with the details of the -8 deal, was arranged at a discount of around half the 787's $161 to $171.5 million list price.
Air China joins Vietnam Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines in converting some or all of the -8s the carriers have on order to the larger 787-9. China Southern, which accounted for 10 of the original order for 60 787s, has slid as well, but remains an early 787 customer with its first, Airplane 34, slated for delivery next year. Airplane 34 had been previously allocated to Air India, but was recently shifted to China Southern.
The 787-9, seating between 250 and 290 passengers, is due to enter service with Air New Zealand in late 2013.