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Korean Air takes delivery of its 1st Dreamliner at Boeing S.C.

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Korean Air took delivery of its first 787 Dreamliner — a 787-9 — today at Boeing South Carolina’s delivery center in North Charleston.

The Seoul-based airline had ordered a 787-8 Dreamliner in 2005, but after discussions with Boeing executives, the carrier decided to switch its order for the more popular 787-9 Dreamliner — pushing delivery to this year because of production schedules.

The 787-9 derivative is 20 feet longer than the 787-8 model. The aft- and midbody sections of all Dreamliners are produced in North Charleston, and final assembly of all but the 787-10 is split between North Charleston and Everett, Wash., sites.

Korean Air President Walter Cho said the extra space on the 787-9 allows for more seats, longer range and more cargo capacity, which makes flying “easier and more comfortable for our passengers.”

“The 787 Dreamliner will become a key member of Korean Air’s fleet as we introduce next-generation airplanes to our customers,” Cho said during a news conference to mark the delivery.

Korean Air will be the first carrier to operate the 787-9 in South Korea, and this jet is the first of 10 Dreamliners on order by the airline. Five 787-9s will be delivered this year.

“With passenger air traffic growing with record numbers over the past few years, I believe that Korean Air’s new fleet of 787 Dreamliners could not come at a more opportune time,” said Rick Anderson, vice president of Northeast Asia sales for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Korean Air plans to fly the 787-9 jet domestically for a few months so pilots can adjust to the mechanics of a Dreamliner before launching long-haul international flights, airline officials said. International routes will include Toronto in June, followed by Madrid and Zurich.

The airline does not plan to add new routes to North America at this time but does plan to increase frequency of flights, including to Seattle, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Cho said.

Korean Air’s continued expansion of international routes over the past few decades “helped to introduce the wonderful city of Seoul to the world,” Anderson said.

Korean Air’s fleet includes 175 aircraft operating more than 460 flights per day to 132 cities in 46 countries.

“I travel a lot to the U.S., and this is my first time to Charleston, and from what I’ve seen, this is a charming city,” Cho said before making the 15-hour trek back to Seoul with 20 other passengers aboard the 787-9 Dreamliner.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.

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