Where to sit on the United 787-9 Dreamliner


The United 787-9 entered service this week making it the third carrier in the world to have the type in service. And, like most aircraft, there are some seats which are better than others. I was fortunate to be able to join on the inaugural flight and I spent a bit of time walking through the cabin taking photos and notes on which seats looked good to me and, perhaps more importantly, which do not.  Here’s what I’ve got.

BusinessFirst

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To be clear, every seat up front is better than the ones in the back. That’s a given. But within the forward cabin there are a few subtle differences worth noting. The BusinessFirst cabin is split into two smaller cabins, forward between the first two sets of doors are five rows and aft of the second door three more rows of seats are available. The seats are in a 2-2-2 layout similar to pretty much every 2-cabin plane Continental and United have rolled out for the better part of the past decade; there is nothing particularly new there. The IFE controller is new and the seat recline controls have moved but the functionality is pretty much the same. Also nearly identical is the situation with the foot-wells on the seats. As a passenger reclines into bed mode their feet extend into a space in the seat frame of the row ahead. Because of the shape of the plane and the seats that means three very different setups for your feet.

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Compare the foot well space in business class on United’s new 787-9 Dreamliner

I still believe that the bulkhead is the best choice for taller passengers and it offers the most room. But I have now also spent a couple flights further back in the “small” footwell seats (A, E and L columns) and did not find it too restricted. The B, D & K columns are the slightly larger space while rows 1 and 6 have the much wider bulkhead option.

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There is limited overhead bin storage over the center column at the very front of the plane due to the pilot rest bunks but there is also plenty of space in general up front for bags.

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Also the seats at row 4 have no windows. That’s a deal-breaker for me.



EconomyPlus

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The EconomyPlus section of the cabin is quite large; there are 88 seats with that designation. And they are all pretty much the same, save a few. As is typical the bulkhead rows have the video screen in the arm rest which is good or bad, depending on your preference. The center set of the three is a bit different than the outside sets in that it has something akin to a “cuddle” seat available. The bulkhead seats also have power ports at all three positions rather than only two per three seats.

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Row 16 (forward bulkhead) also has lots of legroom but no bag storage space. And power for all three seats.

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United’s official published spec for the seat recline on the –9 type suggests that the recline is limited a bit more than the –8 type. Not included in the spec is the part where the seats now recline with an articulating base. The bottom slides forward as the back reclines. This means the passenger reclining also reduces their own knee room a bit and impacts the passenger behind them less.

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Also on the bulkhead front, seats 27A/L are NOT flagged as EconomyPlus in the system. There is no window in that row but there is still quite a bit of legroom. The slide in the door interferes a bit but not a ton. This would be my preferred choice as a “free” seat most likely, though the lack of window would probably frustrate me a lot.

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Economy

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The back of the plane is a tight squeeze, just like most other economy cabins. The very last row does recline so that’s not so bad but there is limited overhead bin space in the center starting at row 39 due to the crew rest bunks.

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Also, row 38 has no windows.

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Overall this is a pretty standard setup for a United Airlines plane. Nothing too surprising on board one way or the other. But some seats are definitely better than others. Make sure this isn’t you.

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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, LinkedIn and .

31 Comments

  1. Thank you for this post! Did you notice a big difference between UA’s 787-9 and 787-8? Obviously the -9 is longer but in terms of seats they look pretty much the same (with the exception of the exit row cuddle seat?)

    1. The “articulating seat” factor is a relatively big change IMO. Reclining means reducing your own legroom now, not just going in to the space of the person behind you.

    1. @Nick – It is. Having been bumped from 16 K/L to 32 K/L on the way back from Tokyo in March, I can vouch for the fact that regular economy on the UA Dreamliner (at least in the 787/8) is a miserable experience for 12 hours. Economy Plus was tolerable, especially on the bulkhead, although the IFE and tray table in the armrest narrows the seat a bit.

      Third time was a charm in 2 A/B. I chose them specifically for the wider foot area. I can’t come up with a single complaint about that experience, except that I could have enjoyed it for a few more hours.

    2. Yes, it is tight. It is economy. The good news is that it isn’t all that much worse than what many others are providing in similar circumstances. Which isn’t to say it is good, but there are others comparable to not much better.

  2. Does business class on the 787-8 for United have the same setup in terms of foot wells and bulkheads? Do you think the bulkheads are the seats to go for on a long-haul service?

      1. I was in 6L yesterday, which is the bulkhead in the mini-cabin, and it seemed like it had the best of all worlds: the wide footwells, plenty of overhead space, and three windows (which interestingly all tint together when you adjust them). I would definitely choose that or 6A again.

        1. I saw you and the woman in 6K enjoying the flight but didn’t get a chance to say hi; sorry about that.

          The equivalent of that seat – starboard side bulkhead window at door 2R – is my favorite in the 2-cabin configuration. I go for it every time I can.

  3. Still so jealous you got to fly yesterday! 😉

    A few questions you may have answers to or pictures of…

    1. You happen to have any photos of the bassinets? I know I read they could be in 6AB, 6KL, 16ABC, 16DEF, 16JKL, 27DEF, but just wondering if they happen to land in a photo of yours.

    2. Seems like no from your description, but to double-check none of the economy bulkheads have the little cut-outs where you can stow your bags?

    3. BusinessFirst seats seem identical to the others so I am guessing they are not totally connected to the shell and a CARES harness will work going around them, but just making sure you didn’t notice any difference about the shell/seat.

    Thanks and great write-up!

    1. I didn’t get any photos of the bassinets out but I did see the mounting points for them. The BF ones are the “bucket” built in to the seat while the economy ones are the traditional setup.

      Definitely no cut-outs at the bulkheads in economy. I generally don’t mind that in exchange for the legroom, especially at 27, but YMMV.

      Identical seats in that context. I’m pretty sure you can still strap stuff in around the back if you could before, though you know I have no experience on that front.

      Sorry you didn’t get to come along; it was a great crew and lots of fun on board, even if UA didn’t really “celebrate” it as a party flight.

      1. Channel 9 is an offering of United Airlines. The first 25 787’s, including the airplane you rode on and I piloted, was originally ordered by Continental Airlines before the merger. Continental Airlines did not offer Channel 9, therefore, these airplanes do not have it. Perhaps in the future there will be a retrofit. But for now, there is no Channel 9.

        1. Thanks for the great ride, John!

          Worth noting that the 764s have had Ch9 added with an IFE update so it is not strictly a sUA/sCO issue. But it mostly still is.

  4. Hi Seth, I’m wondering if you had any more thoughts on row 16 for tall people, especially now given the articulating base on economy seats. Is the leg room still greater than other economy plus rows?

    Thanks

    1. The knee room is tremendous. The foot room, less so.

      Basically no one can recline into you and there is lots of personal space but if you want to straighten your legs out when sleeping you’ll probably kick the divider wall.

  5. I’m a bit confused. You have 3 footwell pics but it’s unclear if the pic on the far right is found in all the bulkhead biz seats or in all the B, D, K biz seats. I’m on UA98 LAX-MEL in January and still have some seating options and I’d really like to get one of the big (far right) footwell seats.

    Also any preference for the row 1-5 cabin or the row 6-8 cabin?

    Finally, if I sit in one of outside seats will there be climbing over during the night or is there a way the window seat can get to the aisle without the bizseat crawl?

    1. Picture on the far right is bulkheads only. I like the bulkhead in the second BF cabin as a general rule.

      And, yes, there will be climbing if you have a window seat. I don’t think it is that bad, but it is there.

  6. Did you happen to notice how much or how little legroom the center seats in row 29 have? Looks mighty generous on the seat map…but then, it’s a seat map.

    1. Plenty of knee room but not so much leg room. No one reclining into you but don’t expect to stretch your legs fully. That’s a bassinet location so the wall is still relatively close to allow for parents to tend to the kids.

      I’d probably take it on a daytime flight and skip it on overnights.

  7. Great resource. For my flight 1B is available (1D/1E are not) as well as 6D/6E. I assume 6D is better than 1B?

    1. I’d rate them probably equal overall. If you want an aisle seat anyways then D means no one climbing over you while B will have that so I guess D is better in that context.

  8. Thank you for a wonderful report! I’m traveling with my 22-month old daughter from SFO-KIX at the end of this year. Currently, our seats are 27D/E because I read these bulkhead seats have a plenty of legroom AND the armrest between D and E can go up (so that my daughter can lay down, putting her head on my lap). Would you say these are the ideal seats for an adult traveling alone with a toddler? Or is it going to be too noisy there because of the bathrooms and the kitchen stations? Are 16K/L better even though the armrest does not go up? Or would you recommend taking something like 18A/C, hoping that nobody sits in 18B? (and if someone does show up for 18B, trade 18C and 18B?) What are your thoughts? Thank you!

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