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Passengers' reward for Dreamliner wait will be the ride

Harriet Baskas

Economy seats on the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner, presented to All Nippon Airways on Monday, do not recline. Instead, the carrier requested that seat bottoms slide forward three inches at the push of a button, saving valuable leg space for other passengers.

Boeing refers to its 787 Dreamliner as a game changer. Some industry observers call the project a money pit — and sometimes far worse — after the first plane was delivered several years late and billions of dollars over budget.

"For a while there, it looked like waiting for the 787 was like leaving the light on for Jimmy Hoffa," said Mike Boyd, an aviation expert.

On Monday, thousands of Boeing workers stood for more than an hour in a cold, pouring rain outside the aerospace giant's sprawling factory in Everett, Wash., and cheered as Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, handed a ceremonial key for the first 787 Dreamliner to Shinichiro Ito, president and CEO of All Nippon Airways (ANA).

Boeing delivered its first 787 aircraft – known as the Dreamliner -- over the weekend, and the company says the new jumbo jet will revolutionize the way we fly. CNBC's Phil LeBeau reports.

ANA will fly the jet to Tokyo on Tuesday and, after a month of special charter flights, offer its first 787 domestic flight between Tokyo and Okayama on November 1. As additional 787s are delivered (the carrier expects 55 by the end 2017), ANA will expand the jets' routes both domestically and internationally.

"The Dreamliner will enable us to offer unrivaled standards of service and comfort to our passengers and will play a key part in ANA's plans for international expansion," ANA’s Ito said at the ceremony.

For passengers, the rewards will be in the ride. The 787 has larger windows, larger overhead bins, more headroom and quieter engines than any commercial airplane. Other features include improved lighting and air purification and a higher humidity level designed to combat the dryness passengers commonly experience on airplanes.

"After a very long wait, passengers are finally getting to taste the service offerings and creature comforts that the very latest in passenger aircraft technology have to offer," said William Swelbar, a research engineer at MIT International Center for Air Transportation. "The triple 7 became a passenger favorite almost immediately ... What remains to be seen is if the 787 will become a game changer within airline networks over the coming decade."

For airlines, the airplane made of 50 percent composite materials promises to be 20 percent more fuel efficient and 10 percent cheaper to operate than similarly sized airplanes in its class.

Harriet Baskas

United Continental Holdings will be the first North American carrier to recieive delivery of a 787 Dreamliner. That jet is currently on the production line at Boeing's plant in Everett, Wash.

 Despite the delays and cost overruns, Boeing has about 800 orders for the mid-size jetliner.

United Continental Holdings is the first North American carrier scheduled to receive a 787. That jet is currently on Boeing's production line, and is expected to be delivered early next year.

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