My first 787 flight on one of ANA’s regional 787s!

Up until today I’ve been embarrassed about never having flown the Boeing 787. I’m a total aviation geek but for a variety of reasons (including all 787s being grounded earlier in the year when I was scheduled to fly on one) haven’t gotten around to flying one till today.

That finally changed with my first 787 flight on ANA between Beijing and Tokyo Narita. Even though the flight is operated by a regional 787 with cradle seats in business class, I was still super excited.

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Frankly half of what I look forward to with flying Japanese airlines is the excessive apologizing. Like the time an agent profusely apologized for upgrading me to first class.

I’m traveling with a friend and neither of us have flown a 787 before, so we had window seats behind one another. At the gate I asked if the seat next to me was empty (since the seatmap looked totally empty a couple of days out). The agent typed for a while and eventually said “3C and 4C no one. But 3A and 4A not voice seats. I’m so sorry.” Not… voice seats?!

Eventually I figured out what she meant – she was saying that if we wanted to talk we shouldn’t sit behind one another since we can’t easily talk between those seats, but the way it was phrased made me giggle.

As far as the 787 itself goes, I hate to say it but I actually wasn’t blown away.

I’ve heard people say that the entryway is impressive. Meh, I didn’t think it was really any nicer than the entryway on most 777-300ERs.

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Admittedly this plane had the regional configuration so the seats themselves weren’t that impressive, but I was expecting that. I was kind of surprised by what bad shape the plane was in, with smudge marks just about everywhere.

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But I didn’t find the actual flying experience to differ materially from any other plane I’ve flown. In comparison, I tend to think the A380 has actually revolutionized the flying experience as a passenger given how quiet and spacious it is.

The 787 wasn’t especially quiet and isn’t really more spacious than an A330. The plane doesn’t have window shades but rather has “dimmers,” so you can choose to dim your windows so you can’t see outside. While I guess that’s innovative I didn’t actually like it in practice, since the windows “reflect” greatly when dimmed. So if you’re sitting in the window seat it’s almost like having a mirror at the window. That being said, the windows are huge, and that’s awesome.

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The only other thing that’s super cool about the 787 is looking out the window at the wing, given how much it “flexes.”

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The service itself was standard intra-Asia ANA service. The flight attendants were friendly but robotic. They did their meal service and walked through the cabin repeatedly afterwards, though not once offered me a drink refill or anything. Bonus points to anyone that can tell me what kind of an animal my “steak” came from…

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Since this was ANA it goes without saying that the lavatories were awesome. After all, they had Totos!

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Obviously the 787 is theoretically revolutionary from the airlines’ perspectives given the cost savings (assuming they can keep the plane in the sky), but from a passenger’s perspective I didn’t think it was that innovative.

For those of you that have flown the 787, how did you feel about it?

Comments

  1. Frequently the passenger perspective positives about the plane center around feeling less beaten up after a long haul flight due to better cabin air circulation.

    I haven’t flown the aircraft long haul so do not have an opinion on it at this point (to me it is just a plane). But I recognize that short haul may not be a good test with which to judge the plane.

    Then again I don’t find the A380 to be a remarkably better flying experience either. Give me a 777 and I’m happy (better stabilization than a 747, so smoother ride, though the upper deck of a 747 is still special to me in the way it doesn’t feel special on an A380 — boarding directly to the upper deck that runs the length of the plane I’d never even KNOW I was upstairs!)

  2. Awesome! Though I do not think I would be able to guess what the ANA’s rep meant by their most likely literal translation from Japanese about talking or not talking in the seats :))

    I am actually quite surprised you had an entire meal on the table. Did you actually wait without eating anything until the table got packed :))) Or did they really placed everything at the same time? I am not sure but I’d say you got tuna steak.

    After number of changes, I’ll be flying with ANA from MUC to NRT in December. I replaced LH’s GDN-FRA-NRT segment with this one and got some refund due to differences in taxes. I cannot wait for this flight even though ANA’s ‘newborn’ seems to be a bit too sterile and plastic or as you said ‘they are robots’.

    Is there any way to get to their business class using miles with United? There were usually one seat available on United’s site even though there were plenty empty seats yet on any class.

  3. @ Robert — It was actually all served at once. Sadly that was supposed to be a “standard” steak and not a tuna steak.

    Happy to hear you’ll get to fly ANA — enjoy!

    You should have no problem getting business class on the ANA 787s within Asia using United miles. I snagged two seats with US Airways miles on this flight, and there were even more award seats than that.

  4. You should remember that travel, like life, is relative. Judging by your seat being right next to the engine I would expect some noise compared to being upstairs on an airplane 3-4x the size of the 787.

    Also, the other enhancements to the experience aren’t going to be as noticeable in a short-haul flight. The higher humidity and lower pressurization is probably negligible until you’re talking about a 10 hour flight – that’s when you reap the benefits.

  5. Seats look pretty similar to the regional 763 I flew on last week (though a bit newer, obviously). I might actually prefer the 763 because it has a single seat in the middle (vs. a pair), and that single seat has more space, and a side storage compartment which fits a decent-sized laptop bag.

  6. @ lucky – is this 787 the Dreamliner that will fly from NRT – SEA?

    I believe you have the simmered swordfish “steak” and stewed pork belly 🙂

  7. I was disappointed by how loud the plane was inside, which I thought was louder than a 777-300ER cabin. But there were other little things about it that were nice…the overhead bins are much bigger than on any other aircraft (the side overhead bins are huge, much bigger than they “seem”) and as you can see from your picture out the window, the walls of the aircraft are much thinner than usual thanks to the new materials being used. I also thought the window dimmers were cooler than you apparently did.

    But overall, I agree it’s not an obviously dazzling plane from a passenger perspective.

  8. @ Natalie — It’s the same plane as such but has a different configuration. The longhaul 787s have fully flat seats in business class.

  9. Ben, sorry but you are wrong. The 787 is the most quiet flying experience I’ve ever had. United’s Business First seats are also fairly nice… by American standards.

  10. The notes from my flight memory entry: First Dreamliner Flight. Shakes too much upon takeoff and landing. IFE didn’t work first half of flight. United flight from ORD-IAH.

  11. I have taken the ANA 787 in business from NRT – SEA before they grounded the planes. I found it to be a great experience, and feel it is a better hard and soft product then AA and United first class. I also noticed how quiet it was.

    Part of their IFE allows you to connect a iPhone/iPad to display on big screen. They had a warning that it would not with my iPhone5, but I tried it anyway. The moment I plugged my iPhone in it crashed the IFE in every business class seat. Which was funny because Tim Cook was a few rows behind me.

  12. @ Lantean

    I was surprised as well. Maybe he wanted to try out the plane before buying one himself. But I guess the cost to fly trans pacific private is so high. Sheryl Sandberg was scheduled to be on the Asiana flight that crashed.

  13. I’m booked to fly the 787 on ANA from SIN-NRT in business in January. Do you know if that route will be operated by the long-haul or regional config? Thanks Lucky!

  14. I flew the SEA-NRT route on ANA before the battery issue and I would say my experience pretty much mirrors yours. It did seem I was less jet-lagged and less tired than usual, compared to other 11 hour intercontinental flights I made in the past, though.

  15. You need to fly it long-haul to appreciate and experience all the Dreamliner has to offer. I too wasn’t impressed when I first flew the 787 between ORD-IAH-DEN, but when I did between NRT-DEN and NRT-LAX, it really is a very nice experience and much much quieter than a 777. Try a long haul and maybe your views will change.

  16. I find the claim that a 777 is quieter than a 787 somewhat perplexing, especially given that the 777 is the hands-down loudest aircraft I’ve ever ridden. Maybe the idea is that if you’re in F at the front of a 773 you’re so much further away from the crazy loud engines that they somehow seem quieter? If you sit anywhere near a 777’s engines in coach it’s almost impossible to sleep. Or think clearly for that matter. The design of the 777 is legendary for its safety, despite whatever happened with OZ, but so is the worst-in-class howl from the engines.

  17. I too have been extremely underwhelmed my four times on a dreamliner.

    The sound was ok, much quieter then a 777, but not even close to the a380 levels (where you barely hear the engines running at all IMHO).

    The worst part of the dreamliner is that it feels… Cheap. During my flight, I have witnessed scratches on the walls and overhead bins, the window “dimming” not working, problems with the toilet so I had to press the button ridiculously hard for it to flush, the soundsystem not working properly so it gave the crew a metalic robotic voice when they made their announcements… The kind of errors that you expect on a LCC aircraft, not on what is supposed to be a pride and joy of a carrier.

    In economy I was extremely underwhelmed with the seating, tight and the legroom was ridiculous for a long flight. If the seat next to me hadn’t been empty, I would never had made it out of there alive.

    In business class it felt the same as any other plane.

    If Boeing don’t get their issues with the plane fixed real soon and Airbus’s a350 avoids the same problems that Boeings had with the dreamliner… Boeing is going to be left dead in the water.

  18. I had very good flight experience with Qatar Airways, flying DOH-CPH-DOH in business class. The seats are phenomenal, nice (but small) lavatories, better use of the table bar (Godiva chocolates and Bollinger Champagne).

    It was a +6 hrs flight and I didn’t feel better or worse in terms of air circulation.

  19. Well, don’t know why you did not feel the difference for the humidity in the cabin, because that is a main thing I think I like about 787 and it made me feel not as tired.
    Maybe PEK-NRT is too short of the flight and being a day-time, you don’t think about it much…

  20. my GF was on of the first 787 qualified chief pursers for NH and after listening to enough stories from her, CA’s mostly dont like working that flight, get nervous and the stomach turns when they take off. the entire PR mess with mechanicals.. she always tells me issues about the 787’s they run and its amazing how much ANA PR keeps things quiet without releasing much to the public. doors have opened up on push back, A/V completely kaput midflight (long haul)and entire cabin lights have shut down (making people scream in flight). sigh. just sayin

  21. I flew ANA’s 787 yesterday from NRT to SEA. Great flight. I arrived rested, comfortable and happy – don’t know if I can ascribe that to the pressurization or what, but I really enjoyed the flight. Most of all, it was *not* a grueling experience in any way – after arriving, it just *felt* like I had taken a brief flight, not the TPAC “ordeal” I have suffered through before.

    The plane seemed quiet enough to me – I certainly did not notice it being loud in any way. I had connected from an TG A380 (coming from BKK the same day), and I thought both flights were roughly comparable, with the following exceptions…(this was all in business class)…

    1. The TG A380 seat had more options for fine-tuning individual pieces (positions), the ANA 787 seat had more basic controls. Both were quite comfortable, but the TG A380 seat was more customizable. OTOH, the foot area on the TG A380 tapered and felt a little more snug; the NH 787 foot area was wider and significantly deeper. I’m not particularly tall, so neither bothered me, but I could easily imagine 6-footers might feel their feet a bit cramped on the TG A380, while I think their feet would be unrestricted on the NH 787. Both seats were quite comfortable, but the NH 787 seemed more roomy. The NH 787 had a few extra panels that could be folded/flipped up/down when in lay-flat mode that helped remove shoulder/elbow restrictions; with those bits stowed, it made for a wider space and more comfortable sleep environment. Not that the TG A380 bed was bad, it wasn’t. Both were quite comfortable, but I’d give the NH 787 the nod (barely) for comfort, both in terms of being less restrictive in lie-flat mode, and in general roominess.

    I thought the ANA cabin crew was awesome – no robots to be seen on my flight, just great service, warm greetings and what appeared to be sincere efforts to charm and keep me happy at every turn (and it worked). I got no shortage of attention, plenty of drink refills, etc. The business cabin was only half full, which probably helped with some of that. I actually found the cabin crew seemed more sincerely engaged and attentive on the NH flight rather than the TG one, which surprised me a bit (in fairness, the TG flight was full).

    Bathroom and toilet were identical to those in your photos.

    FWIW, I had the beef stew for my meal, and it was quite good.

    I’m not crazy about the window dimming tricks, either. Also agree about the hugeness of the overhead bins.

    Overall, I really was very favorably impressed with the ANA 787 TPAC experience. I’m now looking to book an award trip SEA-NRT for next fall, and am inclined to take the same flight (NH 787 both ways). Japan now feels a lot “closer” than it did just a few days ago – and I think that says good things about the aircraft and crew.

    I could get used to this…

  22. Agree with the window dimmers. Nice but unnecessary when a window shade does the trick as it has for many a decade. Not a fan of 787. Did you see the vent they put in for the battery redo project?

  23. Any idea on how I can get an upgrade to business class on my flight from MUC to NRT in December with ANA on their new 787? United does not seem to get any seats on this route at all.

  24. @ Lucky – I redeemned United miles for this trip. Unfortunately, it looks like there are no seat available in business class on United’s website.

  25. @ Robert — The best you can do is keep checking back to see if business class award space opens up, or otherwise possibly look at a different routing that’s available in business class with miles

  26. @ Lucky – Thank you. Though, it looks like United does not get ANA’s busienss seats for this route. I already checked such flight for today, tomorrow and so on.
    Re-routing is an option as well and considering a ‘slight’ change in the itinerary on the returning flight with AC (not my fault) most likely a supervisor would now waive a $75 fee for my change 🙂

  27. I flew last week from Singapore to Haneda in ANA’s 787, business class, and I was utterly disappointed; to start with, no lie-flat seats (in business class, in new aircraft, in 2014!), so I spent the night attempting to sleep while not slipping down the seat and trying to ignore the discomfort of all the edges and joints of the seat sticking in my legs. Furthermore, the plane is noisy; much more than older Airbuses and a tad more than the good old 747 (ah, how much I did love that upper deck…) Veredict: ANA managed to turn a plane called the dreamliner into a plane where you can’t dream at all.

  28. Flying Singapore Tokyo Beijing Singapore next month cattle class.
    Tough choice whether to take the ANA B787 or the Singapore Airlines A380 or B777-300ER… Seriously tempted to try out the 787 just to experience it!

  29. ANA 787 – Singapore Tokyo, Tokyo Beijing, Tokyo Singapore

    Some months after my first flights on ANA and the 787, I must confess my excitement towards the latter has cooled. I’ve realized that you could be on the best aircraft ever built, and still have an average experience. The experience is influenced by the airline and not the aircraft.

    So while I appreciate the hype about the modernity of the 787, I can’t help but be disappointed by the seating – non reclining seats, lack of room for a 6 footers’ knees even when sitting upright, etc etc.

    A few weeks after my trip on the 787, I flew with Singapore Airlines on the A380 – Singapore Mumbai, and the 777-200 on the return. I was surprised to find the most comfortable flight and experience to be the 777!

    Each to his own, I guess. The technology does excite, but we need to choose the right airline to truly experience the technology!

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