Qantas has unveiled its first Dreamliner 787-9, saying it is a milestone in the airline's near century of history.

During an event held at Boeing in Everett north of Seattle, chief executive Alan Joyce said the airline had tapped into Australian technology, food and design to fit out the plane and cater for passengers.

The aircraft was named Great Southern Land following a process that drew 45,000 suggestions, ''some good and some not so good," Joyce said at the ceremony where members of Icehouse played their 1982 hit song of the same name.

Media and VIPs at unveiling of new Qantas Dreamliner. Photo / Grant Bradley
Media and VIPs at unveiling of new Qantas Dreamliner. Photo / Grant Bradley

Boeing has made about 600 Dreamliners and Joyce said the one for his 97-year-old airline allowed it to fly distances "we could have only imagined".

Advertisement

The plane would be used on the longest Dreamliner route - between Perth and London - from next March.

With 236 seats it had a lower seat count than most of its competitors, said Joyce.

"Taking delivery of a new type of aircraft is always an important milestone for an airline and the 787 is a game-changer. From the distance it's able to fly, to the attention to detail we've put into the cabin design, it will reshape what people come to expect from international travel."

The Perth-to-London service was the first direct air link Australia has ever had with Europe.

''And it means other potential routes are now on the drawing board as well."

Business class cabin in Qantas Dreamliner Photo / Supplied
Business class cabin in Qantas Dreamliner Photo / Supplied

Qantas has already announced Melbourne-Los Angeles flights and services between Brisbane and the United States were being investigated.

There were many elements that made the Qantas Dreamliner special, said Joyce.

The seats, the lighting, the entertainment, personal storage, right through to the special crockery, cutlery and glassware that weighed on average 11 per cent less than what it was replacing.

"We're working with sleep specialists, dieticians and other scientists at the University of Sydney to see how adjustments to our in-flight service can improve wellbeing and help people adjust to new time zones," said Joyce.

The interiors of the aircraft and seating were shaped by Australian industrial designer David Caon who has collaborated with Qantas on cabin upgrades and some of its lounges.

Economy class cabin aboard the Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner Photo / Supplied
Economy class cabin aboard the Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner Photo / Supplied

Qantas announced the names for its first eight 787s in June: Boomerang, Dreamtime, Great Barrier Reef, Great Southern Land, Quokka, Skippy, Uluru and Waltzing Matilda;

Qantas 787-9s will feature a premium-heavy 236-seat interior: 42 seats in business class (in a 1-2-1 configuration), 28 in premium economy (at 2-3-2 abreast) and 166 in economy (at nine abreast).

Air New Zealand's Dreamliners have between 275 seats and 302 seats.

The Qantas Dreamliner has an updated livery, first revealed in late 2016 in preparation for new aircraft entering the fleet and the airline's centenary in 2020.

This was only the fifth time the iconic Flying Kangaroo has been updated, with those updates traditionally coinciding with the introduction of a significant new aircraft type.

The Dreamliner, registered as VH-ZNA, is scheduled to land in Sydney on the morning of October 20 after it performs a flyover of Sydney Harbour, weather and air traffic control permitting.

Boeing has 1283 firm orders for Dreamliners after a rocky start.

The Dreamliner project was begun when there was little appetite for a variant of the supersonic Concorde.

Boeing has put behind it the outsourcing problems, industrial disruption and battery fire issues it grappled with.

Its programme - which put its first plane into service in 2011- is about to enter a new phase with the stretched version of the 787, the 787-10, due in the first half of next year.

Boeing's managing director of product marketing Jim Freitas told a briefing in Seattle that the Dreamliner had achieved 99.4 per cent reliability for more than 60 airlines around the world.

Since entering service six years ago the 787 family is flying more than 1300 routes and has made possible more than 150 new non-stop routes around the world.

New Qantas Dreamliner in Seattle. Photo / Grant Bradley
New Qantas Dreamliner in Seattle. Photo / Grant Bradley

The 787-8 Dreamliner can fly 242 passengers up to 13,620km in a typical two-class configuration.

The 787-9, a stretch of the 787-8, can fly 290 passengers 14,140km in addition to more cargo, allowing airlines the ability to grow routes first opened by the 787-8, Boeing said.

The 787-10 will fly 330 passengers up to 11,910km, or more than 90 per cent of the world's twin-aisle routes.

Dreamliners burn between 20 per cent and 25 per cent less fuel the airplanes they replace.

In Australia and New Zealand those are mainly Boeing 767s and 747s.
Freitas said this has saved an estimated 9.4 billion litres of fuel.

Composite materials make up 50 per cent of the primary structure of the 787, including the fuselage and wing making it lighter and stronger.

That fuselage strength means the plane can be pressurised to a lower altitude, making it more comfortable for passengers. It also has technology that senses and counters turbulence.

Flight of the Dreamliner

2003: Boeing ditches development on Sonic Cruiser in favour of the Dreamliner
2005: Qantas signs up for Dreamliners
2006:  Boeing begins assembly of test models
2007: Engineers find gaps between sections of the plane, empty shell of plane rolled out for media
2008: Problems with fasteners, two-month machinist's strike
2009: Wave of cancellations, another delay announced, first test flight
2011: Japan's ANA takes delivery of the first 787-8
2013: Battery fires lead to global grounding of fleet for two months.
2013: Qantas group airline Jetstar gets the first of its 787-8s
2014: Air NZ gets the first of the larger 787-9
2017: Qantas takes delivery of the first of eight 787-9s with options for 45 more

- Grant Bradley travelled to Seattle courtesy of Qantas and Boeing