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United Airlines New 787 Dreamliner
updated: Nov 17, 2012, 11:00 AM

By Marc Liberts

United Airlines New 787 Dreamliner - A Traveler's Perspective: November 06, 2012

I scheduled a short business trip from SBA to IAH a few months ago on United Airlines. I got a good price out of SBA, picked my seats, paid for my tickets, and didn't think about it until about 30 days ago, when I started reading about United Airlines introducing their new Boeing 787 Dreamliner into their fleet. The aircraft is slated to run long-haul flights from the US to Asia and Europe, so I figured I probably wouldn't get to ride one. However, the news said that the United would be flying the 787 Dreamliner on some domestic runs for November 2012 & December 2012, and it just so happened that LAX - IAH was on the list. So, I went to their website and sure enough, I was on the first Dreamliner flight going from LAX to IAH and I also was taking a 787 Dreamliner for my return from IAH to LAX! I had enough frequent flyer miles to upgrade only one leg of the journey, so I opted for the return flight because it is a little longer. I tried to upgrade the first leg from economy to United's Economy plus, but the only Economy Plus seats that were available were middle seats, so I kept my window seat in the back of coach.

I flew from SBA to LAX on Sunday November 04, 2012 without a problem, and then got ready for my 787 flight from LAX - IAH. Sunday November 04 was the 787 Dreamliner's first day of carrying passengers, and there was a good deal of excitement at LAX which was cool. I had a standard economy seat near the back of the plane. The plane is brand new, so everything was clean and nice. I didn't like the fact that United opted for 3-3-3 seating. On planes of similar width when there is 9 across seating, I think the 2-5-2 configuration is better.

On United, I almost always opt for Economy Plus, which is an economy seat with 3-5 inches of additional leg room. Truth be told, on their oldest planes, you might get up to 5" of additional leg room. On their newest planes, you get about 3" of extra legroom. As you can see from the photos, my 6'2" frame has my knees almost touching the seat in front of me in regular coach class. Luckily, these seats have the extending seat bottom, and that motion preserves space for the person behind you. Overall, I survived coach. However, if you are over 6" tall, or if you want to work comfortably with your laptop, spend the extra money and get the Economy Plus seats.

Of the many technical and scientific innovations that Boeing and United were touting, I will comment that the mood lighting is nice, the in-flight- entertainment system is good and easy to use, and I concur that the windows are bigger. However, the most important difference between the 787 Dreamliner and every single other plane I've been on (and I've been on almost every single commercial airliner except the A-380), is the fact that it is much quieter in flight than any other plane I've ever been on. That is really nice, and I can imagine that on long-haul flights, it must be a real pleasure.

One of the things they are touting in addition to the extra big windows is the electronic dimming system they use instead of window shades. The system works well, but I had the bad fortune of being on the wrong side of the plane at sunset while trying to watch a movie. The dimming system wouldn't dim enough so that I could watch the movie and not be distracted by the orb of the setting sun. Not a deal-breaker, but a slight bummer. Also, the storage bins on this plane are some of the biggest I've ever seen, and all roll-aboard bags fit easily into them.

One the return flight from IAH to LAX on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, I treated myself and upgraded to First Class. When you have a first class ticket, you get an expedited security line and access to the United Club. The line was a breeze and the United Club at IAH was restful and well stocked with snacks and drinks. The on-board experience was excellent: all the amenities you expect, (hot towels, pre-flight cocktail, warm nuts, great food, hot cookie before landing) along with a huge, lie-flat seat with 689 different ways to make your seat more comfortable. Overall -totally worth the 20,000 frequent flyer miles.

Is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner the plane that will bring panache back to flying? Not for this frequent traveler. However, the in-flight-entertainment system plus the low noise of the 787 make this a plane to fly on above most others if possible.

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