The 787 Dreamliner: a sardine tin with frills or a revolution in long-haul travel?

Boeing has taken its Dreamliner on a world tour to promote its new 'green' plane. But what about the passenger experience?

The 787 Dreamliner: a sardine tin with frills or a revolution in long-haul travel?

Inside the economy cabin of Thomson Airways' new Dreamliner, which will start flights to Florida and Mexico from May 2013. Source: Thomson

From our London offices – where plane spotting is a spectator sport – we couldn’t help but notice the 787 Dreamliner gliding into Heathrow on Monday.

It was the Dreamliner’s first leg of a world tour by Boeing to promote its next-gen plane and so naturally, we were a little star struck.

The plane will be making its way to Gatwick on Wednesday after making a fleeting appearance at Manchester Airport on Tuesday.

Brits will have the chance to fly the 787 out of UK airports in 2013 when the first batch of jets take to the skies with charter airline Thomson and British Airways.

Virgin Atlantic, which has 16 Dreamliners on order, will follow suit in 2014.

A short-lived dream?

We’ve all heard great things about the Dreamliner, the new staple of long-haul travel which has been built with fuel efficiency and passenger comfort in mind, from the fuselage up.

But is the Dreamliner really the ‘revolution’ in air travel that it’s touted to be – at least in terms of the passenger experience in economy class?

As impressive as the Dreamliner is on paper – with its lightweight airframe, higher humidity levels aimed at combating jet lag, giant porthole windows and mood lit cabin – in the skies the issue for most travellers has yet to be addressed: leg-room.

Naturally, airlines have little desire to add square inches in economy class. Instead they prefer to please their prized passengers at the front of the plane with fripperies such as lie-flat beds, umpteen varieties of bubbly and Michelin star meals.

Sure the larger overhead locker space and fancy lighting are nice touches, but the Dreamliner still doesn’t offer much of an improvement over the knee crushing experience you get in economy on any airline.

Instead, the improvements you can expect on board are more evolutionary than revolutionary.

But that doesn’t mean airlines aren’t willing to try new things on the Dreamliner.

Thomson Airways is bringing a bar on board its charter flights on the Dreamliner that will offer smoothies, as well as broadband access.

A sign of things changing for the better? Definitely. But enough to compensate for the leg room? That view of course depends on where you’re sitting on the plane.

What others have said

  1. That’s only a component. They also try to keep arifract in the air as much as possible by minimizing turn around time on the ground, improving fleet utilization. Historically, they also fly shorter routes, so fuel costs are less per mile as you burn less fuel to carry fuel for longer trips. Currently, they have been increasing trip length, but they wisely bought fuel hedges and have been turning a significant profit due sale of those hedges.Another thing they do is pay employees well but maximize use of their time (flight attendents clean up the plane during turn around). They also are very choosy about their employees. So despite having a highly unionized workforce, they don’t get stuck with crappy productivity sapping work rules and they maintain a highly motivated workforce.

  2. Thanks’ for going beyond Boeing’s PR hype dutifully regurgitated by almost everyone. Sure it’s a nice plane, but it has yet to be established whether it delivers the promises made?

  3. The revolution is not in the passenger area but whats lies beneath. The engines, core system,and wing design. Not to mention aircraft weight, all catering to the airlines operational margins. Boeing could have built a luxuriant economy class but could passenger afford an economy ticket at that point. Hence,Boeing gave the best passenger experience for the buck in economy class so the airlines could compete and stay in business. What lies beneath is the revolution.

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