Henk Ombelet from Flightglobal's consultancy service Ascend tracks how airlines are deploying the Boeing 787 aircraft, four and a half years into its operating life.

Since its entry into service with All Nippon Airways in late 2011, airlines have clocked more than 100,000 revenue flights with Boeing 787 aircraft.

Data from Flightglobal's schedules specialist Innovata shows that now 35 scheduled carriers are operating a combined totaled of 375 Dreamliners. These are deployed across some 368 intercontinental routes.

A quarter of these are new routes - or least new to the airline which has taken the 787. The majority of these routes are operated by Norwegian, which used the type to begin long-haul services - albeit it started some routes using leased older models because of the delays in 787 deliveries.

Another fast-expanding carrier, Qatar Airways, is among three other airlines to use their 787s to launch five or more new routes. The other two are Air India and United Airlines.

By contrast 15 Dreamliner operators are still to deploy the type on any new routes - instead using their 787s either to replace or augment other widebodies on existing routes.

While these 15 airlines account for almost half the number of 787 operators, they operate only 73 aircraft between them - less than a fifth of the in-service fleet. These airlines have largely only taken delivery of the aircraft in the last couple of years, and suggests 787 customers' priority is to enhance service or efficiencies on existing flights before looking to break new ground with their 787s.

None has waited longer than Ethiopian Airways - nearly four years before opening it first new route with the type. By contrast 13 operators used 787s to open new routes almost immediately.

Efficencies was one of the key selling points of the 787s, albeit in what was initially a much harsher high oil-price environment. Dreamliner operator have been quick to use the type to enhance existing routes. Airlines have use the aircraft to replace existing aircraft on 140 of the 368 routes the aircraft is deployed on. Most of these were operated by 777, 767 and A330

It has also allowed airlines like Virgin Atlantic and Etihad to reduce their A340 fleet, while Hainan Airlines, LAN Airlines and Royal Jordanian have got rid of them altogether. The 787 is more economical (in terms of direct operating costs) to operate than the A340, even in the current fuel price environment.

On the remaining 130 routes the 787 is used alongside other aircraft types.

This article is based on a presentation delivered at the Strategy Summit at Routes Europe on 24 April. For more details go to Flightglobal.com/Services/Consultancy.

Source: Cirium Dashboard