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United Airlines New 787 Dreamliner
updated: Nov 17, 2012, 11:00 AM

By Marc Liberts

United Airlines New 787 Dreamliner - A Traveler's Perspective: November 06, 2012

I scheduled a short business trip from SBA to IAH a few months ago on United Airlines. I got a good price out of SBA, picked my seats, paid for my tickets, and didn't think about it until about 30 days ago, when I started reading about United Airlines introducing their new Boeing 787 Dreamliner into their fleet. The aircraft is slated to run long-haul flights from the US to Asia and Europe, so I figured I probably wouldn't get to ride one. However, the news said that the United would be flying the 787 Dreamliner on some domestic runs for November 2012 & December 2012, and it just so happened that LAX - IAH was on the list. So, I went to their website and sure enough, I was on the first Dreamliner flight going from LAX to IAH and I also was taking a 787 Dreamliner for my return from IAH to LAX! I had enough frequent flyer miles to upgrade only one leg of the journey, so I opted for the return flight because it is a little longer. I tried to upgrade the first leg from economy to United's Economy plus, but the only Economy Plus seats that were available were middle seats, so I kept my window seat in the back of coach.

I flew from SBA to LAX on Sunday November 04, 2012 without a problem, and then got ready for my 787 flight from LAX - IAH. Sunday November 04 was the 787 Dreamliner's first day of carrying passengers, and there was a good deal of excitement at LAX which was cool. I had a standard economy seat near the back of the plane. The plane is brand new, so everything was clean and nice. I didn't like the fact that United opted for 3-3-3 seating. On planes of similar width when there is 9 across seating, I think the 2-5-2 configuration is better.

On United, I almost always opt for Economy Plus, which is an economy seat with 3-5 inches of additional leg room. Truth be told, on their oldest planes, you might get up to 5" of additional leg room. On their newest planes, you get about 3" of extra legroom. As you can see from the photos, my 6'2" frame has my knees almost touching the seat in front of me in regular coach class. Luckily, these seats have the extending seat bottom, and that motion preserves space for the person behind you. Overall, I survived coach. However, if you are over 6" tall, or if you want to work comfortably with your laptop, spend the extra money and get the Economy Plus seats.

Of the many technical and scientific innovations that Boeing and United were touting, I will comment that the mood lighting is nice, the in-flight- entertainment system is good and easy to use, and I concur that the windows are bigger. However, the most important difference between the 787 Dreamliner and every single other plane I've been on (and I've been on almost every single commercial airliner except the A-380), is the fact that it is much quieter in flight than any other plane I've ever been on. That is really nice, and I can imagine that on long-haul flights, it must be a real pleasure.

One of the things they are touting in addition to the extra big windows is the electronic dimming system they use instead of window shades. The system works well, but I had the bad fortune of being on the wrong side of the plane at sunset while trying to watch a movie. The dimming system wouldn't dim enough so that I could watch the movie and not be distracted by the orb of the setting sun. Not a deal-breaker, but a slight bummer. Also, the storage bins on this plane are some of the biggest I've ever seen, and all roll-aboard bags fit easily into them.

One the return flight from IAH to LAX on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, I treated myself and upgraded to First Class. When you have a first class ticket, you get an expedited security line and access to the United Club. The line was a breeze and the United Club at IAH was restful and well stocked with snacks and drinks. The on-board experience was excellent: all the amenities you expect, (hot towels, pre-flight cocktail, warm nuts, great food, hot cookie before landing) along with a huge, lie-flat seat with 689 different ways to make your seat more comfortable. Overall -totally worth the 20,000 frequent flyer miles.

Is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner the plane that will bring panache back to flying? Not for this frequent traveler. However, the in-flight-entertainment system plus the low noise of the 787 make this a plane to fly on above most others if possible.

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Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 344148P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-17 11:06 AM

Interesting. Thanks for sharing.


 COMMENT 344150P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-17 11:11 AM

Really useful review. Thanks.


 COMMENT 344164P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-17 11:33 AM

I have one coming up on the 787 later this month looking forward to trying it out even more after your photos. Thanks for all the photos, the only thing I find disappointing about the new plane is the BusinessFirst seating which is the Intl Bus Class seats only onboard not the 1st Class Suites United offers on other planes.


 COMMENT 344198P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-17 12:36 PM

The window shade doesn't close?


 COMMENT 344200 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-17 12:42 PM

There is no manual window shade; the windows automatically tint themselves to block out sunlight.


 COMMENT 344201 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-17 12:43 PM

The window shades are electronic now. Instead of an actual physical shade, you turn a knob and the glass goes from clear to dark (via an electronic film) based on your setting.


 COMMENT 344228 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-17 02:34 PM

I liked the business first seating. If you are on the window, you are a bit wedged in if your neighbor is reclining. However, the seat is really comfortable and the IFE is good. The window does not have a shade - it is dimmed electronically - and I didn't love it.


 COMMENT 344322 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-17 06:02 PM

"Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?"


 MESARATS agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-18 02:07 AM

I look forward to that soon. I am so tired of the 50-70 passenger toucher tubes.


 COMMENT 344459 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-18 08:35 AM

I see it's just me who got stuck with the question of where is IAH?

Nowhere is that designation spelled out for those of us who don't accumulate freq. flier miles and know the airport designations like crusty pilots. SBA and LAX are obvious enough to someone living here but IAH? Iowa City? Honolulu maybe? That's it! But it took me 5 minutes to figure it out and lost interest in your essay.

Please, if you use abbreviations, spell them out in the beginning to introduce dummies like me to what you're referring to when you pull them out. Thanks.... maybe I should go back and finish reading your essay now.


 COMMENT 344471 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-18 08:55 AM

IAH = Houston International Airport (George Bush)


 COMMENT 344547P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-18 11:49 AM

the answer is the first thing that comes up on google...


 COMMENT 344570 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-18 12:33 PM

Great info and pics - - thanks so much for taking the time to share them!

Another feature of the 787 Dreamliner - - and a really positive one - - is that it has a cabin pressure altitude of 6000 feet as opposed to the 8000+ feet experienced in all other commercial jet aircraft. This may not seem like a big difference, but it actually is in terms of how the human body reacts to extra 2000 feet.


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