My British Airways Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner in London – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
International first class is something special. It’s something that very few people will ever be able to pay for, but for those putting down the cash, they expect an experience beyond anything else available.
British Airways skipped a first class option on its Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner deliveries, but with the 787-9, it decided to give their well-liked first product a bit of a refresh. The global first class market is quite competitive. Many airlines have totally given up on it, while others keep trying to offer the biggest, best, and most expensive options. In a world of apartment-like products, showers, bars, and full private suites, I wondered how British Airways now stacks up. The end result is one of the nicest seats that I have ever had the pleasure of flying in.
The British Airways first class product on their Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner – Photo: British Airways
My experience began at London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) with a visit to the Concorde Room. British Airways has multiple lounges at Heathrow, but the Concorde Room is something more exclusive. It is reserved only for passengers flying intercontinental first class on the airline, and affords passengers extra niceties and amenities. One of the most interesting perks is what it calls a Cabana. The Cabanas are little private rooms within the lounge, where passengers can shower, take a nap, or simply watch television. While airports can be super stressful, this was the exact opposite. We were already off to a great first class start!
In part one of this series I provided an overview of my airline sampler trip (5 airlines over 4 days) and offered my thoughts on my very first flight with Virgin America, from Dallas to San Francisco. Here we pick back up at SFO for a quick journey down to LAX in the first class cabin aboard a United 787-8.
This leg of my airline sampler was actually the catalyst for the entire trip. I happened to stumble upon an announcement that United would be briefly returning the 787 to domestic service for once weekly (Friday) service from SFO-LAX. I didn’t get the opportunity to check out the Dreamliner when United had them on domestic runs when they were first introduced. After a number of friends booked their own 787 experiences only to be disappointed by the wrong plane at the gate, due to operational issues, I decided to hold off. I was skeptic for too long and wound up missing my opportunity. Some time had passed and United now had a number of 787s in service, so I figured that the time was right.
The economy fare was very attractively priced at a meager $72.10 — what a bargain! When United.com solicited me to pay an extra $29 for economy plus I jumped at it.
As a Boeing fan-boy, I was excited, but that joy would soon evaporate like spilled Jet A on a hot day. It pains me to report that problems began before I ever stepped foot on the plane…
Air Canada Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner – love that wing! – Image: Air Canada
Air Canada has just released details of a new cabin design for their soon-to-be-received Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. The first three aircraft will be delivered to Air Canada in the spring of 2014. The first AC routes to receive the 787 will start on July 1, 2014 from Toronto (YYZ) to Tel Aviv (TLV), and a new Air Canada route from YYZ to Tokyo-Haneda (HND). The Dreamliners will also fly on select domestic Canada and international flights on a “preview” basis as they come into the fleet, which we’ve seen with other new 787 operators.
Not unlike AC’s new 777-300s, the Dreamliners will have three cabins – International Business Class, Premium Economy, and Economy. The 787-8s will have a total of 251 seats (comparable to LOT Polish’s 787s, seating 252, which we featured earlier this year). Air Canada describes the 787’s cabin color palette of slate grey and neutral tones, accented with “Canadian red” and “celeste blue”, as being contemporary and sophisticated.
BONUS – Air Canada’s 787 Seating Chart
The 787’s Business Class isn’t like J-class in the new 777 or older AC planes. The new 787-8 configuration is a “reverse herringbone”, with four-across seating in a 1-2-1 setup, for a total of 20 lie-flat seats. AC’s older wide-bodies have a “herringbone” Business Class, where the seats face towards the aisle. Instead, the outer pods in the 787 will face the windows, and be angled towards each other in the middle of the cabin. I’m looking forward to seeing this setup; it isn’t easy to look out the window in the current J-class, and it’s challenging to chat with a partner when you’re both in the opposite-facing middle seats. The 787’s window seats might be a bit quieter, too, because your head won’t be up against the outer wall of the fuselage.
United Airlines First 787 at Paine Field in Everett. Phone: Mal Muir – Airlinereporter.com
On Tuesday the 4th December 2012, United flight 1146 scheduled from Houston to Newark, diverted to New Orleans due to a mechanical issue. An emergency had been declared during descent and following standard procedure, the flight was to be welcomed by emergency crews upon landing.
As they approached the airport, there was talk between the tower controllers and the crew on board that would indicate they had predicted there might be an electrical problem. Recordings taken from LiveATC (thanks to NYCAviation for the transcript) indicate the crew were forwarding instruction for the ground crews to help them inspect the aircraft upon landing:
UA 1146: If in fact anything’s going on it’ll be the area right behind the wings, the rear of the wings back to the third door on each side.
Tower: Which wing?
UA 1146: Uh, we don’t know. Either one. It might be on either side. But it’s behind the wing where high load electrical stuff is and back to the rear cargo. But we don’t anticipate anything, that’s just where he needs to be.
UA 1146: So following us would be perfect.
The Dreamliner landed safely and all 184 passengers & crew on-board were unharmed. The unexpected arrival marked the first Boeing 787 to land at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. United re-booked passengers on another aircraft and set out to work with Boeing to investigate the issue.
United Airlines First Boeing 787 on Launch Day at the Boeing Factory in Everett. Phone: Mal Muir airlinereporter.com
United Spokesperson Christen Davis confirms to AirlineReporter.com that the maintenance inspection of the 787 that diverted to New Orleans (N26902 the latest of their their 787s) revealed that one of the six electrical generators on the aircraft failed and that back up systems allowed it to be powered by the remaining five. United will replace the generator, run additional checks and then return the aircraft to service as soon as possible.
United also confirmed that this diversion was unrelated to the latest FAA Airworthiness Directive to all 787 operators that required mandatory inspections to the fuel feed systems. The FAA implemented these mandatory checks this week, which had already been recommended by Boeing. United’s 787s have already undergone the inspections for the fuel systems & Davis confirmed that United would continue to work closely with Boeing and the FAA to determine what went wrong with flight 1146.
||This story written by…Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent.Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.
@BigMalX | BigMal’s World | Photos