[Noob contributor, Ethan Carter, is an Environmental Specialist in the oil & gas industry who absolutely loves to travel. From Arkansas, he currently lives in Houston, TX (and on United planes). He studied in Germany and Austria, and has traveled to more than 30 countries in Europe, North America, and Asia.] Noob Traveler is happy to have Ethan’s input!
Part 1: 787 Dreamliner Review
Part 2: Mileage Running to Istanbul
Part 1: 787 Dreamliner Review
In my first post I discussed mileage running, and here is the story of my first run, starting with a review of the 787 Dreamliner!
I traveled to Istanbul from Houston via Chicago and Newark on a Friday (arriving Saturday), then back Sunday via Newark. The route was popular with mileage runners (there are still super cheap fares to Istanbul now if you’re interested!), and I ran into 3 or 4 others doing similar, even some that turned around and got back on the same plane!
IAH-ORD on the 787 Dreamliner
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is United’s newest plane, and it’s been in service less than a month. Eventually it will run international routes, but it’s running domestically for now. This plane is great for United (and other airlines) because it is more fuel efficient (read: lower cost), and lower capacity than traditional long-haul aircraft, so it opens new routes that weren’t previously economical (like Denver-Tokyo which begins in April). The flight went well, despite being delayed for a few minutes for maintenance (even new planes aren’t immune!).
First off, this plane looks really cool. The wings are swept way back, and the engines have a tapered feature that makes it instantly recognizable. They also sat really high in flight, which was cool to watch (I got an overwing seat because I’m a nerd like that).
Everything is new and shiny on this plane. I’ve heard wonderful reviews on BusinessFirst, but I wasn’t upgraded. Sad days. I sat in economy plus, in a window seat. There was a lot of overhead space, which is a department where airlines seem to be doing well. The seat itself, however, is seriously lacking. For
one it’s only 17” wide. That’s narrower than the seats on a Embraer Regional Jet (which are 17.3”). United did this to cram 9 seats in a row, but it’s noticeably narrow (and I’m pretty skinny). It was fine for a 2 hour flight, but I don’t know if I’d want to sit there for 9 hours internationally.
At the end of the day, it’s an airplane with a cabin.
One of the big benefits touted is that the cabin is pressurized at a lower altitude, which should help with jet lag. This doesn’t make too much difference on a 2-hour flight, but I do think my ears didn’t pop as much as they normally do on planes. It was nice having a full complement of international in-flight-entertainment on a domestic flight! There are even USB ports to interface your own devices, but I didn’t try this out.
The 787 also has fancy new electronically-dimmed windows. While the dimmers are novel, I had mixed feelings about them. For one, when completely dimmed, they still don’t block out the sun completely. They also don’t provide any thermal insulation like a shade would, so the window gets rather hot to the touch. My seat by happenstance had 2 windows, which were linked electronically. I didn’t like this at all, because I wanted to keep the front one dim so my row mates could see their screens, but still look out the other window.
I did think it was cool that they finally got rid of the no smoking light, since smoking hasn’t been allowed on planes in quite a while. There’s now just a little sign on your seat, and a seatbelt light. There is also an automated voice that gives the “captain has turned on the seatbelt sign” announcement, which could
probably wake you up in the middle of the night on an overnight flight. I much prefer a subtle “seatbelts please” from the captain on an overnight flight (like our flight to IST).
The plane itself does look really cool, with its swept back wings and tapered engines. But United made some mistakes with the interior configuration, most notably forcing 9 seats in a row when other airlines (like ANA) only have 8. I enjoyed flying on the brand new plane, but I won’t be going out of my way to get on a Dreamliner on a long-haul international route. Unless, of course, I find myself flying up front, in which case I would be more than happy to enjoy the benefits of the lower cabin pressure.
— Geoff Whitmore