Boston ends its quest for direct Asia service with JAL’s 787

Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner JA822A/N1003W ZA177

Boston’s Logan International Airport and the Asia has a long and winding history of missed connections, though the pair is finally to be united.
Elected officials in Massachusetts have sought direct service between Boston and Asian destinations for more than a half decade. The 7,800 to 10,000ft runways at Logan restricted how many passengers and revenue cargo aircraft could carry to connect the largest city in New England to destinations in Asia.  

The 787 was designed to defy those restrictions, allowing long range, low demand (long and thin) city pairs to be connected profitably. A December 2007 trade mission to China by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was aimed – in part – at securing the air link between Boston and China with Hainan Airlines. 
Boston was supposed to get its first 787 service in 2009 with flights to Beijing or Shanghai on Hainan Airlines, but the delays in the program, coupled with Chinese carriers abandoning their early 787s, the service remained aspirational. Boeing confirmed yesterday that China Southern would take delivery of its first 787 late this year.
For the sake of full disclosure, connecting Asia to Logan has always been a niche interest of mine, not the least of which is the fact that I grew up in the Boston area and before FlightBlogger was with Flightglobal, I served on Governor Patrick’s staff. Sitting on my desk at home is a 7E7 model painted in Hainan Airlines colors that I brought home from my first trip to China last year and serves as a reminder of the brief overlaps between my past and current careers.
While it’s not the long-sought China link, Boston will finally get its direct service to Asia next year with direct flights from Logan to Tokyo’s Narita Airport on Japan Airlines. 
Perhaps fitting, the route – which opens on April 22, 2012 – will be operated as Japan Airlines Flight 7 and Flight 8 and Airlineroute.com reports that the carrier will begin Singapore flights in late 2011, as well, however JAL has not confirmed this directly.
The late April date for the start of the Boston flight as the carrier’s first route is curious though, with JAL set to receive its first few aircraft this year. Why the four month gap before revenue service? A period of time between US Federal Aviation Administration and Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) certification is expected for the Rolls-Royce powered 787 that are going to All Nippon Airways in August or September. ETOPS trials for the General Electric GEnx-1B-powered 787s (selected by JAL) are expected to follow sometime after Rolls trials, which begin in June.
Perhaps conflictingly, the JCAB says it plans its own 12 to 18 month extended operations (ETOPS) certification - as it did with the 777 – before giving clearance for long range missions with the 787. A 330 minute ETOPS clearance is more than enough margin on the near-polar route between Boston and Tokyo, but the JCAB hasn’t said if it will allow anything beyond operations beyond a 60 minute diversion to an alternate airport. A 120 minute ETOPS margin would allow the 787 to fly the route, but it’s not entirely clear that it will be available.
Let’s hope that that Boston’s Asia link doesn’t have to wait any longer than it already has.

One Response to Boston ends its quest for direct Asia service with JAL’s 787

  1. Roman May 28, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

    It’s great to see my home city get this vital new link with East Asia. Gotta say, though, that for purely selfish reasons I wish it was ANA instead of JAL.