787. Courtesy, Boeing

All Nippon Airways (ANA) flight 7871, the first Boeing 787 commercial passenger service, landed at Hong Kong Oct. 26 after a 4 hr. and 10 min. flight from Tokyo Narita.

The inaugural flight—a special charter—was marked with celebrations of the traditional saki toast at Narita, Chinese dragon dancing at Hong Kong and water hosings by fire tenders on the taxiways of both airports.

But there were also many references to the 40-month delivery delay that launch customer ANA endured to get to this point. “Today, finally, we launch the first flight of the 787 Dreamliner. I am delighted and excited to celebrate this long-awaited day,” ANA president and CEO Shinichiro Ito said.

Capt. Masami Tsukamoto, who supported 787 pilot training and development at Boeing and co-piloted the inaugural flight with Capt. Yuichi Marui, director of ANA 787 flight operations, remarked, “May 2008 was supposed to be the first delivery and there was a three-and-a-half year delay, so it has been a long journey, but finally we have a 787 in our hands so we are very excited.”

Scott Fancher, Boeing Commercial Airplanes VP and GM-787 program, also acknowledged the production delays that became a 787 hallmark. “It has been a very difficult journey. But I can’t tell you how long I have been waiting to hold this boarding pass in my hand,” he said.

Onboard, however, the problems getting to this point were forgotten as passengers admired the multi-hued cabin lighting and the huge windows with electro-chromatic, auto-dimming technology that does away with the need for plastic shields.

Ito said Hong Kong was selected as the first destination because the flight was considered a good way for passengers—a mix of ANA and Boeing executives, VIP guests, media and paying public—to experience the unique amenities and comfort of the 787. ANA’s first international charter flight was also to Hong Kong, back in the 1970s with a 727.

Flight 7872 will depart Hong Kong tomorrow for a return flight to Tokyo. Scheduled services will begin Nov. 1 to domestic Japanese destinations, while international services will start in the following two months beginning with flights to Beijing and Frankfurt.