So this summer I had the chance to fly on an almost brand new 787 Dreamliner – having read a number of very complimentary blog posts from business class passengers I was quite excited!
However I rarely fly in business so my experience was that of an economy passenger. The takeaway point is to avoid the 787 and fly with another aircraft if you possibly can 😦 A lot of the much touted fuel burn improvements seem to be obtained simply at the expense of your comfort! I am not alone in this view!
So my flight was on a BA 787 from London Heathrow to Montreal (and back). The way out was a later afternoon flight and way back was an overnight. There are a number of things wrong with the 787 (as implemented by BA other airlines may differ):
The seats are very narrow. Both on the way there and the way back you find your shoulders and elbows clashing with your seatmate. I managed to get an aisle seat each time but on the way back I had to endure some random blokes’ arm digging into my side the entire flight. It was hot enough so you end up with a sweat patch where his arm touches you – urgh! Whilst during the flight murdering him seemed a perfectly reasonable course of action, he wasn’t really being antisocial – there is simply not enough room for everyone. This is a problem as everyone flies the 787 in nine across in economy. I’ve flow ten across in the back of Emirates 777s loads of times and this felt much worse – I haven’t measured the seats so this is a subjective metric.
The seat pitch is worse than Ryanair! Again this obviously varies with operator but I had more personal space on a 2 hour trip from Edinburgh to Gdansk than on this transatlantic flight. See photo left – you don’t get much more legroom with Ryanair but you do get more – a very surprising comparison to me!
The fancy electronic window shades don’t work very well. So on the way out the cabin crew dimmed the shades but since we were chasing the sunset the sun remained blasting at one side of the plan keeping us in daylight.
The air conditioning system is ineffective. Since the sun was heating the plane on one side, those of us on the right were taking as many of our clothes off as you can get away with and sweating. On the left side of the plane folk were wrapping blankets around their heads to keep warm. This might be a function of BAs odd fit which doesn’t seem to fit individual cooling vents (see right). The average cabin temperature might be fine but the individuals aren’t comfortable – bit of a design failure there!
There is a giant eequipment box in the foot well of every aisle seat. Again this might be a BA thing but the thing is HUGE – it uses up around 1/3 of the volume. This means you can’t sit straight in the seat. This I think runs the entertainment system but is very bulky!
So the thing might be quiet and the cabin humidity might be higher. I didn’t feel as dried out as I did when I did the Montreal trip in an MD11 the year before – but older aircraft give you much more person space. Overall it was huge disappointment and I wonder how much the vaunted engineering reduces fuel burn and how much it is simply cramming passengers in like sardines.
I do also think that given that personal space is one of the biggest things being sold on planes that you ought to be able to find out how much space you are allocated easily. The best way to do this now is via third party websites like Seatguru – which only exist because the airlines don’t provide this information to you. I don’t see how the market can function without easy comparisons being made.
Anyway to sum up – avoid the 787!