So Boeing have finally dragged their Boeing 787 on tour to the United Kingdom on a few stop tour to Heathrow, Manchester and London Gatwick (Oh, and thanks for the lack of a press invite Boeing…)
Frame ZA003 – the 3rd Test and Demonstration aircraft, powered by Rolls Royce Trent 1000 Engines arrived at London Heathrow earlier today to a flurry of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic happy people. With stops at Manchester and Gatwick, it’ll also keep Thomson happy – as well as show of the 787 to potential UK airlines that are still thinking about it.
Now we all know the concept of the 787 – lighter frame and body, more range, and makes it cheaper to take less passengers over a longer distance.
In fact, I’ve done this 😉 For those of you who missed it, head to Farewell Miles: Frankfurt to Tokyo Haneda in ANA’s 787
But whilst Boeing have designed what is a reasonable aircraft, there are some facts that need to address.
- Lengthwise it’s slightly longer than the current Boeing 767-300ER
- Widthwise, it’s slightly wider than the said 767-300ER
That in itself presents a few limitations, which points to the initial competition of the Boeing 787 – the Airbus A330. With the larger variants coming on stream (the 787-9 and the possible 787-10), the amount of passengers won’t be an issue – more like the experience for the passenger.
And that’s where I’m going with this ramble.
Whilst there are some nice big windows and a lower air pressure point of 6000ft over the normal 8000ft, and a higher humidity level (which didn’t make a spot of difference to me – I needed a couple of bottles of water on that trip), there are some little things.
There are some great configurations going for the longer distance carrying 787’s
- ANA’s 1-2-1 at the front, 2-4-2 down the back is to be commended as very spacious – in every sense of the word.
- JAL has gone for a reasonable 2-2-2 at the front, 2-4-2 down the back.
- ANA Domestic 787’s are slightly more crammed with more economy class seats, however it’s still 2-2-2 at the front, 2-4-2 at the back.
- Then there is Air India. Whilst Business is a reasonable 2-2-2, economy class is the slightly worrying part configured in a 777 style 3-3-3 – reducing your width in personal space to nothing.
And for those who think space doesn’t matter, you get 19″ (48cm) of width in a 2-4-2 configuration, where as in the 3-3-3 config, you get 17.2″ (44cm) of space.
And 4cm of space… is a lot on a 10 hour flight. Size in this case does matter.
So that’s the first thing – airlines preserve seat width where possible.
Second up is In-Flight Entertainment. Yes, I will natter on over In-Flight Entertainment as it’s supposed to be one of the cornerstones of this blog 🙂 . And there are some great systems being loaded on these birds. My fear (and it was well founded on ANA) is the disturbing lack of content that seems to be loaded on the systems. This can be negated with connectivity options, but some serious investment in IFE content for longer haul segments is becoming a requirement.
Finally, there is the little thing of the Window Shades. And I have concerns over this smartglass thing.
- The glass polarises the entire window to black and can’t bring it up to bright no matter the circumstance, which is a risk at takeoff or landing
- The glass fails to polarise at all, causing the cabin to be flooded by light on a sleeper service.
If the 787 is to succeed in the eyes of the passenger, it won’t be the nosecone, the chevron engines, the wings that seem to bend forever or the magic 787, it’ll be the seat they sit in that will dictate their memories – and whilst Boeing can provide the frame and the cabin, ultimately, it will be the airlines that decide if their implementation and use of the cabin.
So airlines – a challenge to you – make the 787 a pleasant environment for your passengers… please?