More thoughts on the Continental 787 seating

A couple weeks ago when Continental announced their initial route for the 787 Dreamliner the seating numbers seemed a bit interesting to me. The capacity seems low relative to what Boeing suggests should be possible with that plane which led me to wonder about the possibility of an Economy Plus arrangement similar to what United Airlines offers.

Well, I’ve taken another look at the dimensions of the planes and I’m still not entirely sure what is going to happen, but as least I have some more data to support my random observations. The three images below are from Boeing and reflect the dimensions between the nose and the various doors for the 767, 777 and 787 aircraft that Continental has or will have in operation.

767 777787

The gaps between the various doors – which pretty much define the cabin sizes – are as follows:

Aircraft Door 1 – Door 2 Door 2 – Door 3 Door 3 – Door 4
767-200ER 403.5 inches 794 inches N/A
777-200ER 406.5 inches 758 Inches 520 inches
787-8 355 inches 672 inches 250 440 inches

Assuming that the BusinessFirst seats remain 6 across – and there is no good reason to believe otherwise – Continental will need six full rows of these seats. On the new 777-200ER configuration there are only 26 seats between the forward two doors and that space is actually a full row larger than it will be on the 787. Given that it appears that the BusinessFirst seats will extend into the second section of the aircraft by about three rows. That, plus galley and lav space, would consume about 200 inches of pitch from that second cabin, plus or minus a bit.

With about the same amount of space consumed by coach seats in the second cabin on the 777 and 787 (fewer BusinessFirst seats in the 787 but also a shorter space) there can be about 105 seats in that space with a 3-3-3 arrangement and 31-32” of pitch, plus the lavs at the third set of doors. That leaves 87 seats unaccounted for to be installed between the third and fourth doors. Even at 9 across the space available back there only would accommodate about 72 seats with a 31-32” pitch. That would mean that the other 15 seats would need to be in the middle section or there would need to be tighter pitch to accommodate everything. With 440 inches of pitch in the back section, less the space for the galley and lavs there is only room for about 10 rows at 32” pitch. That would be about 90 seats, or about what Continental needs to fit in there to hit their numbers.

I’m sure that Continental will find a way to get the extra seats in the cabin at the 31-32” of pitch to match the rest of their fleet. But the bad news is that my previous thoughts on the capacity of the aircraft appear to have been, quite simply, wrong. The space between the first two doors is rather smaller than that of the 767 or 777s Continental currently has and the new BusinessFirst seats are a bit larger than those the 767 is currently using. Those numbers all add up to suggest that perhaps an Economy Plus section isn’t on the horizon after all. Maybe Continental is going after the Cozy Suites from Thomson Aero Solutions or something else funky like that. If not, it looks like just plain economy seats on the new plane. And any dream of the plane being only 8-across pretty much just sailed out the window, too.


The numbers are not 100% conclusive and there is still a chance that E+ could happen, but I’m not betting on it at this point.

And if you want to see more dimensional aero-geek information about the planes in question check out these links:

Related Posts:

UPDATE 9 June 11:35am EDT: I misread one of the dimensions on the 787 chart so things aren’t quite as bad as they looked but I still don’t see how anything more than 32” is going to roll out.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Yeah, I am for sure not going to fly in Economy from Houston to New Zealand. Long flights with 31″ pitch? No thanks.

    Then again, isn’t it also possible that the press release info (# seats in each cabin) that you based your numbers on is simple what Continental was planning prior to the merger, and that the whole thing will change completely? E.g., are you certain that the 787s will be two-cabin aircraft?

  2. Well, nothing is certain in life, but the numbers above are almost certainly reflective of how the order went in to Boeing and the seat manufacturers and it seems pretty much the way it is going to be.

    As for whether it will remain a 2-cabin aircraft, I cannot see that changing. F service in general is going to be shifted around after the merger and it will remain limited and in very specific markets. The 787s are destined for long, thin routes. Those are generally not the routes that support a true F product.

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