By Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY
HONG KONG -- All Nippon Airways made aviation history today by flying the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on its first-ever flight with paying passengers.
ANA Flight 7871 departed Tokyo at 12:23 p.m. local time today, landing in Hong Kong about 4 hours later. The flight was feted by inaugural ceremonies in both cities, including a "dragon dance" performance upon landing in Hong Kong.
ANA CEO Shinichiro Ito was among the roughly 240 passengers on the flight, and he walked back the aisles to personally thank some of those on board for their business.
However, getting on board Flight 7871 was easier said than done.
More than 25,000 people applyied for the 100 seats ANA opened to the public. Another six business class seats were auctioned off for charity, with one bidder paying more than $33,000 to secure a seat on the flight.
The rest of the seats went primarily to journalists and industry officials.
The flight itself had a party-like atmosphere, with passengers cheering enthusiastically both when the plane left the runway in Tokyo and again when it touched down in Hong Kong.
Passengers chatted in the aisles for much of the flight, discussing their aviation hobbies and swapping stories of inaugural flights over the years.
Still, a chaotic air occasionally took over the cabin -- mostly the result of TV journalists scrambling to interview passengers and crew while simultaneously staking out spots for perfect camera angles.
Regardless, nearly all on board seemed to relish the experience of the Dreamliner's inaugural flight.
As for the new passenger comforts promised for the 787, many on the inaugural flight say they did in fact notice items like higher cabin pressure - your ears still pop, but less dramatically - and roomier storage bins.
But, far and way, the jet's bigger windows were the perk most frequently cited by those on the flight.