10 Reasons – Why not to fly with Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Over the past 30 years I’ve been flying all across the globe with almost all passenger aircraft you can imagine and with a huge number of different airlines – on long-haul, short-haul, charter, low-cost – for both business and pleasure.

Of course in recent times I was also flying with the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Praised by Boeing and the media for being “a new way of flying and offering unprecedented improvements to passenger comfort” I was very curious to see what it really has to offer.

To make long stories short, travelling in Economy Class I’m really disappointed by this aircraft and not impressed at all. I’m avoiding flying with it wherever I can and I suggest to all people traveling on long-haul doing the same. The plane is OK for short-haul hops between big cities, but for long-haul it’s horrible!

But why is that?

See, I’m 6.3ft tall (1,91m) but very skinny. I’m very sensitive when it comes to seating comfort and I’ve an expert’s eye on build quality, functionality and materials.
Most cabin improvements I see are actually steps backwards, decreasing comfort compared to older cabin and seat designs.

Of course, the 787 offers less fuel consumption because of using light-weight materials. This is an improvement and step in the right direction to save costs (for the airlines, not for the passengers) and reduce fossil burning. But the reduced weight not only comes from a new way of building the fuselage and components like wings and stabilizers, but also from stripping down the entire cabin, removing anything that adds any extra weight, no matter how minimal, and replacing the already cheap materials with even cheaper ones. This reduces passenger comfort in almost any aspect, but was sold by Boeing Marketing as “big improvements and futuristic cabin design”.
So, basically the airlines are saving money, your ticket prices stay the same or even increase and you’re getting less comfort than before.

Let me show you some examples from a recent flight with LAN Airlines 787 between Europe and South America. Usually I’m flying this route with LAN Boeing 767 or Iberia Airbus A340, A330. So I have a good comparison between “new” and “old”.

1. 787 Seat Design
The seat is uncomfortable as hell! I get back pain almost instantly after taking the seat. This is because they introduced “back support” into the seat. In reality it seems the seat was stripped down, removing all “old-styled” seat cushions to reduce weight. In addition the seats became more narrow and slim to fit in more seats. On the LAN 767 serving the same route, the seats are far more relaxing and comfortable. Iberia A340 offers better seating comfort, too.
LAN Boeing 787 Seat

2. 787 Arm Rest
The Boeing 787 arm rest is tiny! Any full-grown man has problems finding any comfort on this tiny thing of cheap, hard plastic. It’s too short, too small and because the surface consists of two different kinds of plastic, you get painful pressure mark on your elbow.
LAN Boeing 787 Armrest

3. In-seat screen
Well, I don’t really know what the engineers have done here, but the in-seat screen cannot be tilted! The entire screen is fixed and cannot be moved in any direction. This is a no-go! If the guy in front of you is putting his seat back down – that’s the end for you seeing anything on your screen. What a “great” innovation.
LAN Boeing-787 Screen

4. 3-3-3 Seat Configuration
A 3-X-3 seat configuration is highly unpopular amongst the majority of international long-haul passengers, surveys have proven. The Boeing 787 3-3-3 (9-abreast) configuration squeezes in as many extra seats as possible. To recover the high costs for purchasing the 787 and to reach the advertised rate for reduced fuel consumption per-passenger. The nine-abreast seating of the Boeing 787 gives passengers less space than on any other jet. Even less space than a 10-abreast 777 or a 737! Way more space on a LAN 767 than on LAN 787! Only exception is ANA with a 2-4-2 layout that features wider seats and more space.
B767, A340, A330 – all offer the more loved 2-X-2 layout.

5. Seat spacing
Already said that the Boeing 787 virtually forces airlines to squeeze in seats, just look at this picture + size comparison. Do YOU want to sit there 10+ hours? I don’t! That’s why I’m preferring to fly with LAN Boeing 767 that offers more room on the same route. (Hey @LAN, why not sell your 787 tickets for a cheaper price than your regular tickets? Would only be fair! Less comfort = cheaper price)

6. Build quality
In general I’m missing attention to detail and build quality in the entire cabin. All feels very cheap, too cheap. A good example for the very poor quality are the cup holders. On all my 787 flights, these have been broken on almost any seat I could see from my position. Why? Because the design of those things is that cheap that it breaks after using a few times.
The plastics used in the cabin are that cheap, that, for example, you can dent the overhead light/air panel with your finger, if using the air nozzle.
No attention to detail at all, you can also see in the fact, that Boeing is using identical wall panels on both, the left and the right side of the cabin, probably to save costs. Because of that, the blue LEDs on the element to control window tinting is on the wrong side if sitting on the left hand side of the plane. No major issue at all but not the level of quality and innovation they are always promoting.
Boeing 787 Cup Holder

7. Seat pocket
We have the year 2015, and still the old-school metal frame of the 787 seat pocket is maltreating my knees? How unconfortable is that? Come on, today there’re already plenty of other aircrafts/airlines/seat designs that have done this right nicely! No issue on Iberia A340! Acceptable on short-haul but not on a 10+ hours long-haul flight.

8. Table design
Pictures say more than a thousand words. The table is mounted too low. It gets even worse if the seat is put back. Eating in that position promises to be “fun”.
To reduce weight, the table is made smaller than on other planes. It also doesn’t feature an edge to stop the tray from sliding down.
Boeing 787 Table

9. Luggage compartments
The 787 Dreamliner offers larger luggage compartments than on any other “older” aircaft. There’s even a mirror to help looking inside. Nice. But this doesn’t help if you can’t reach up there! I’ve never seen so many people standing on seats to reach for their luggage. Another example of bad design.

10. Noisy
Boeing promotes the “Dreamliner” to offer a more quiet and relaxing cabin. In reality I cannot notice any big difference to any other modern airliner in terms of noise level. In some aspects I even find it to be more noisy than “regular” airplanes. In any case no particular reason for choosing to fly with the Dreamliner instead of any other plane.

So, if you’re traveling on long-haul and if there’s any alternative, you should definitely avoid flying with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It doesn’t give you any advantage over regular planes and offers worse passenger comfort.

6 Responses

  1. Pedro says:

    Overall interior design of the plane can look nice and tidy but looking into the details it is definitely cheap and doesn’t give an impression to last. Flying Kenya Airways 787 from Paris to Nairobi last month one of the windows was not working. It was on the right hand side and as we were flying southbound the poor passengers in that row had to bear 7 hours of sun in their faces. The 3x3x3 is the worse combination, what a bad idea.

  2. Bob says:

    Thanks for the insight. We just had a relative that flew from Taipei and was on a 787 and was not impressed. &$& Business still the best with A340 Business close behind. At leats the batteries didnt catch on fire on your flight!!!

  3. Pedro says:

    Whilst I also avoid / refuse to fly the 787 for the same passenger comfort reasons as you, in fairness none of these criticisms are due to the Boeing 787 or its design. These are all decisions of the airlines to take the opportunity to cram more passengers into a new aircraft. We are seeing the same trend with airlines on existing aircraft (e.g. British Airways short haul fleet; Emirates with its 10-abreast B777 fleet).

    Seating decisions are made by the airline, not Boeing (Boeing don’t provide or install the seats!). Airlines are just taking advantage of a new aircraft design to take a new approach to seating.

  4. Juan says:

    I agree the 787 aircraft and seats are horrible compared to the A330. The cabin is cluttered, dark, and in lack of styling that you feel you are flying on a military air charter. The seats feel like sitting on a park bench for over 8 hours. The lavatories are small with small sinks. The engines vibrate less than the 777 but still not as smooth as the A330. The A330 is spacious, better seats, more overhead bin space, large galleys in the rear with larger lavatories and flies smoother and just feels like a wide body should feel.

    Equally, I was very disappointed in flying the 787-800. Withe very low cabin pressurization, there was a constant line to the lavatories of people relieving themselves including myself. Water bottles expanded at altitude and shrunk in a crushing way during landing.

    Boeing products are a disappointment hence why the Airbus A330 and A350 are such great aircraft for overseas flights. I intentionally avoid the Boeing 767 and 787 products and put up with the annoying vibration of the 777

  5. Alex P says:

    wow, that sounds nothing like the American Airlines 787-8s and 787-9s I’ve flow on. I always had great flights on them. you should try another airline. the passenger cabin is made by suppliers and is selected by the airline, not the manufacturer of the airplane.

  6. Alistair Ewen says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I was financially forced to fly a BA 787 to Mexico. Having pre-paid for an aisle seat, I was told that I had to have a window seat. I couldn’t even bend forward to remove my shoes as I normally do on a long haul flight. Eating required the skills of a contortionist. Although I am not wide and my neighborhood wasn’t either, I felt very cramped. Knowing the problems with the 787, I paid extra to return on a proper long haul aircraft. The A340 600 with Iberia. In comparison, the A350 is a much better aircraft. Those few extra cm of cabin diameter make a big difference in the passenger experience.

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