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Boeing's first 787 Dreamliner lands in Tokyo
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 28, 2011

The first 787 Dreamliner to go into service landed in Japan on Wednesday, greeted by media, excited plane spotters and high hopes that Boeing's gamble on a mid-sized, lightweight aircraft will pay off.

The plane -- painted in the blue and white All Nippon Airways livery with red highlights -- touched down at Tokyo's Haneda airport shortly after 9:00 am (0000 GMT), three years after it was originally promised to ANA.

The delivery comes after a string of technical mishaps and delays that have cost US-based Boeing billions of dollars in lost or cancelled orders.

But Shinichiro Ito, president and CEO of ANA, who travelled on the aircraft from the US after receiving it from Boeing, declared himself "delighted" with "the aircraft's first touchdown... after a trouble-free flight".

Boeing says the twin-aisle 787's construction, partly from lightweight composite materials, means it consumes 20 percent less fuel than comparable planes, an attractive proposition for airlines facing soaring fuel costs.

The company has also been touting the larger windows, bigger luggage storage bins and more humid cabins than conventional jets, a factor it says will reduce passenger fatigue.

"It is an honour to have participated in a historic programme for ANA and I have been extremely moved," pilot Hideaki Hayakawa told a news conference following the arrival.

"I feel there is a potential that the aircraft will make changes in the aviation industry," Hayakawa said, citing its fuel economy, cost performance and comfort.

The 787 represents a big bet by Chicago-based aerospace and defence giant Boeing on cutting-edge technology and materials for commercial aircraft.

The mid-sized, long-haul plane -- which has an average list price of $202 million -- is crucial to the company's future. It is the firm's first new design in more than a decade, drawing on huge advances in aviation technology.

With seating for up to 330 passengers, the 787 is Boeing's gamble that airlines will demand mid-size aircraft, rather than planes in the category of the mammoth A380, Airbus's star.

Its development has been far from smooth -- ANA had originally been told to expect the first of its 55 ordered planes in early 2008.

But Boeing says that by the end of July this year it had 827 of the new aircraft on order from dozens of carriers and leasing companies around the world.

ANA president Ito said the new fleet of 787s will play a "key part" in his plans for international expansion.

The Japanese carrier is planning to begin the world's first commercial 787 service on the Tokyo to Hong Kong route in October, followed by regular flights to Beijing and Frankfurt.

ANA, in common with other high-end carriers, is facing increasing competition from budget airlines and is banking on the 787 to boost demand and cut costs.

The company was hit particularly hard by the impact of Japan's March 11 quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, which suffocated the incoming tourist industry and crimped domestic demand.

It logged a group operating loss of 8.1 billion yen ($106.1 million) in April-June and responded by cutting services and using smaller planes to cope with the post-quake drop in passenger numbers.

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China opposes EU's 'unilateral' airline tax plan
Beijing (AFP) Sept 28, 2011 - China on Wednesday criticised European Union plans to charge airlines for carbon emissions, accusing it of "unilaterally" introducing the new tax.

Airlines, which contribute 3.0 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, will be included in the EU's carbon trading market on January 1.

China has said it fears its aviation sector will have to pay an additional 800 million yuan (about $125 million) a year on flights originating or landing in Europe, and that the cost could be almost four times higher by 2020.

"China appreciates the EU's efforts in climate change but opposes the EU's forced implementation of unilateral legislation," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told journalists at a briefing.

The tax would affect the country's major airlines -- including Air China, China Eastern and China Southern -- which plan to jointly lodge a legal case with the China Air Transport Association (CATA), the group told AFP.

Hainan Airlines, another large carrier, will also take part in the litigation.

CATA deputy secretary general Chai Haibo said "dozens of airlines" would be involved in the lawsuit and it aimed to lodge the case by the end of the year.

"Not only China but many other countries oppose the EU's practice," Hong said.

"The EU should act prudently and take a positive and practical attitude to handle this matter through proper consultations with China and other parties." Airlines around the world have denounced the EU plan to charge them for carbon emissions, warning it would cost the industry 17.5 billion euros ($23.8 billion) over eight years.

US air carriers are also challenging the EU Emissions Trading System in Europe's top court, arguing that it breaches international climate change agreements.

EU climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard said Monday that airlines will receive 85 percent of their emissions allowances free of charge in 2012, meaning airlines would have to pay for 15 percent of their polluting rights. The figure will drop to 82 percent per year between 2013-2020.

She said the free allowances amount to 20 billion euros over the next decade, adding that airlines could use the funds to modernise their fleets, improve fuel efficiency and use non-fossil aviation fuel.

At the Paris air show in June, China reportedly blocked an order by Hong Kong Airlines for billions of euros worth of Airbus aircraft due to the EU carbon tax plan.

A source close to the matter who asked not to be identified told AFP at the time that he was aware of "the possibility that China could put the deal on ice."

He said it is well known that "the Chinese government is very unhappy" about legislation bringing airlines operating in Europe into the EU's emissions trading system.

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Airlines decry EU carbon emissions scheme
Brussels (AFP) Sept 27, 2011
Airlines denounced on Tuesday an EU plan to charge them for carbon emissions, warning it would cost the industry 17.5 billion euros ($23.8 billion) over eight years. Three major airline associations charged that the European Commission was "grossly misleading" by stating the scheme could actually translate into 20 billion euros in revenue over the next decade. "It is high time that the C ... read more

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