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Thomson Airways is the European launch customer for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which made its UK debut at the 2010 Farnborough Air Show. Thomson's first 787s enter service on July 8 2013, several years late due to development issues with the new aircraft, which has a mainly carbon fibre construction. The arrival of the first 787 was further delayed due to further problems with the aircraft's batteries and other issues.
Boeing and Thomson claim the 787 will revolutionise long-haul travel. The aircraft, as Thomson configure it, will carry 291 people for up to 18 hours, bringing places like Honolulu into range, although South America, Malaysia and Vietnam are being mooted as more likely new destinations for Thomson.
The 787's first long-haul routes will be Cancun and Florida. It will serve Gatwick-Phuket from November 2013.
For the passenger, perhaps the most revolutionary aspect will be the cabin. Thomson has still to reveal all, but there will be a juice bar onboard by the main doors. Due to the carbon fire construction, the cabin can be pressurised higher than any other airliner and the air inside it is less dry. This means the air quality will be equivalent to that at 6,000 feet instead of the usual 8,000, the same as being at ground level in Johannesburg. This will help fight dehydration and jetlag. Sensors on the wings also detect turbulence better, bringing a claimed reduction in air sickness of up to eight times.
During a brief tour of the prototype, the 787's wider aisles and much bigger overhead lockers were immediately apparent. Thomson also showed off another of the aircraft's innovations, electronic window dimming - something that's bound to be a big hit with excited children. The added strength that carbon fibre construction brings means windows can also be larger - they are three times the area of conventional aircraft windows.
Thomson is also promising broadband access and HD entertainment on demand. It has not yet decided the extent of the broadband technology, but there is talk of a deal with iTunes that will allow music downloads mid-air.
Those keen to be among the first to fly the 787 may not need to book a long-haul trip, as it will undertake a three-month proving period before it flies very long distances. Until then, the 787 is likely to crop up on flights to places like Egypt or even shorter routes.