It was day three of scheduled commercial service for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, operated by ANA, and I was on board. No, it was not the actual inaugural flight, but I still managed to get there within the first week of operations and I could not be more excited about the experience. It was awesome. That’s not to say that everything about the aircraft is perfect, but the experience certainly was.
My flight on the Dreamliner was from Hiroshima to Tokyo‘s Haneda airport. The trip is only about 400 miles and the total time in the air was just over one hour so it wasn’t really sufficient to try out everything on board, especially the effects of the higher pressurization (though I don’t recall my ears popping like usual, but I’m also not great at noticing that because it happens so often) and the more moist cabin air, but I still managed to put it through the paces as best I could.
Boarding was quick and efficient, as expected from the Japanese. Still, they allotted an extra 5 minutes to the process as they knew this was a special experience. There was something of a crush of gate lice to the self-boarding gates as they announced that boarding was available. Fortunately my Star Alliance Gold status (and being the big, ugly American) got me towards the front of the crush and on reasonably early in the process.
Business Class Cabin
Nothing really to say here; looks pretty comfy but this also is not their premium long-haul configuration so I’m not too worried about it.
There has been a bit of concern since Seat Guru published their guide to the seat map of the aircraft about the seat width in coach. The 2-4-2 layout (which really is more like 2-2-2-2 without an aisle in the middle) lends itself to a very generous seat width yet the reports on the site show the width as a hip-crushing 16.5″. Good news, folks. That data is just plain wrong. The bulkhead rows, where the tray tables are in the arm rest, have the narrower width but the rest of the aircraft has a quite generous 18.5″ or more width. The seats are quite roomy.
Seat recline is an interesting change from a typical airplane configuration. The seat back doesn’t actually move. Instead the seat-bottom slides forward about three inches and the back slides down a bit, creating the same effect as reclining. But it does so without imposing the seat on the passenger behind you. This sucks if you have long legs and also want to recline as you’re basically stuck but it is great for folks (like me) who hate having someone reclined into you.
The AVOD system is pretty nice, with 9″ screens in coach. That’s about as big as you can get being so close to the screen and still be able to watch comfortably. There is a seat-to-seat messaging system and the screens can be used either as touch screens or with the controller. I was rather unimpressed with the music and video selections; no movies (though maybe because the flight was too short) and only a couple dozen short video programs plus maybe a dozen CDs for music. I hope that’s just because they don’t have the content fully loaded and not because it is going to be such a paltry offering going forward.
I’m also a big fan of the built-in cup holder in the tray table. They have two, one if it is open and one if it is closed, meaning that you can use the tray table for a laptop or other purposes and still have somewhere to stow a drink. Definitely a nice touch.
And then there is the mood lighting. Lots of fun there. The flight attendants were playing with this feature a bit, particularly during boarding and de-planing. It is fun, but I’m not sure it adds much value to the in-flight experience. It does demonstrate the ability to control the lighting levels to a very granular level, which I suppose is a very useful thing.
The windows are HUGE. It was a night flight so I’m not sure how much this really matters, but they were noticeably larger than on older aircraft. We’ll have to see what the net effects of this are in the long term but it certainly was nice. The electronic dimmers on the windows were a bit sluggish to react but they behaved exactly as advertised in the end. Again, a night flight made it hard to really evaluate the impact of this but it was certainly neat.
In the lav
The Japanese and their toilets. Touchless flushing (it puts down the seat, too!) and bidet functions (designed by Toto) are built in to the toilets. There’s also a window in the lav by 3L (though not at 3R). I do like a lav window.
It isn’t perfect
OK, maybe my expectations are just too high. Still, like one of the notes in a review offered up by Kerwin I noticed a few quirks in the flight. It was VERY quiet at cruise, and I was sitting just aft of the wing so I should’ve had engine noise to some extent if there was much. During the flight there wasn’t. That said, the mechanical noises surrounding the operation of the flaps and other wing control surfaces were pretty loud. Again, maybe just because I was sitting basically on top of them, but Kerwin noticed it, too.
There was also a strange “whine” going on throughout the flight. It was very high pitched – like an old tube TV going bad – and I have no idea if others noticed it or not. It kept going even after the engines were shut down upon arrival so I’m guessing it has to do with the electrical power plant on board. No matter what, it was pretty annoying. Not enough to ruin the experience, but if it really is like that going forward I can see it being a problem for me flying on this aircraft.
Finally, the new overhead bins, while well designed for baggage, are not particularly well configured for an adult to climb in. I’m thoroughly disappointed in that development.
It was a great day and a great trip. I’m definitely looking forward to getting back on board soon.
Oh, and if you want to check out the pre-flight safety video it is here:
Read more from this Trip Report under the Dream2011 tag here.
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