United's Boeing 787 Dreamliner in Houston. Photo: Brandon Farris

United’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner in Houston. Photo: Brandon Farris

It has been a long journey, but I am proud to say that I have finally flown on a Dreamliner.

After two years of trying to get on the 787-8 Dreamliner, I finally had my opportunity to step aboard one of the most amazing aircraft ever built.My flight, United 1169, was from Houston to Los Angeles; they fly the aircraft once a day between these cities for positioning, and when I stumbled on it I couldn’t resist.

As time call to board my flight (in the Economy Plus section), it finally began to sink in that I was about to board the plane I have lost many nights of sleep over. I have followed the issues the plane has had throughout its flight test program and entry into service.

The aircraft I was flying on, N26902, has quite a history and actually is one of the 787s that cost me a couple night’s sleep, as it was the plane that diverted to New Orleans back in December, 2012, when the battery saga was beginning to catch fire. The aircraft also completed the inaugural flights for United to Tokyo Narita from Los Angeles, becoming the first 787 flown by a non-Japanese airline to land in Japan.  Weeks later, it completed United’s first flight to Shanghai.

Almost a full welcome on board. Photo: Brandon Farris

Almost a full welcome on board. Photo: Brandon Farris

N26902 landed from Lagos, Nigeria in Houston at about the same time as me at 4:40AM. It was nice to watch the sunrise lighting up the aircraft.

BONUS: Video – Flightdeck of a United Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Of course the jetway and gate I was boarding through was a mile long and every step my heart raced more as I made my way to the aircraft. Yes, I was this excited – there’s no question that I’m a proud AvGeek. Finally, I turned the corner and could see the big doorway and galley that welcomed me onto the aircraft.

As I was about to step onto the Dreamliner I was a little disappointed to see that the jetway covers the “Welcome aboard United’s 787 Dreamliner” sticker that United has placed on each of its 787s.

The cabin of United's Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Photo: Brandon Farris

The cabin of United’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Notice the one un-dimmed window on the left. Photo: Brandon Farris

When I entered I quickly noticed the striking blue-colored mood lighting on the ceiling, which felt warm and welcoming. I couldn’t stay distracted too long; I had to find my seat – 17J, on the aisle.

I took my seat and my screen was adorned with a warm “Welcome aboard United’s 787 Dreamliner” with a pretty picture of it soaring through the skies. Soon that would be us.

Even from being three seats over I could see how much larger the window truly was; my seat mates had the window dimmed down but it was still a nice touch being able to actually look out the window and not have the shade restrict my view.

BONUS: Flying on United Airlines’ Boeing 787 Dreamliner Inaugural Flight

The in-flight entertainment on United's 787. Photo: Brandon Farris

The in-flight entertainment on United’s 787. Photo: Brandon Farris

I quickly stowed my bag and began to play with the screen, seeing what was available to listen to. I was rather disappointed to not find Channel 9 (air traffic control) in the audio options. There was also no Wi-Fi on the flight, but at least there was other in-flight entertainment to keep me busy.

As the passengers began to settle down, the flight attendants came through and began to close all of the overhead bins. This seemed to really open up the ceiling of the aircraft and I was impressed. I have flown with the Boeing Sky Interior on the 737 many times and knew it was inspired from the Dreamliner’s interior, but it was still quite impressive.

I had ample legroom in my Economy Plus seat. Photo: Brandon Farris

I had ample legroom in my Economy Plus seat. Photo: Brandon Farris

Finally, it was time to push back from the gate and listen to those General Electric GEnx engines power this beauty up – what a beautiful sound it was. But it seemed that as soon as those engines started, the plane went silent. It was very nice to see that the plane really is as quiet as advertised; the loudest things I remember were just the hydraulics as the flaps and gear were lowered and raised along with the engine spool-up when we were cleared for takeoff.

Once we crossed through 10,000 feet I reclined my seat and was pleasantly surprised with how far back it went. The Economy Plus seats offer 35 inches of pitch compared to 32 inches in regular economy.

BONUS: Photo Tour of United’s First Boeing 787 Dreamliner

After watching a movie,  I decided it was time to go and explore the entire aircraft. I started in the back and worked my way forward.

Even the flusher in he lavatory is hi-tech on the Dreamliner. Photo: Brandon Farris

Even the flusher in he lavatory is hi-tech on the Dreamliner. Photo: Brandon Farris

I made my way back to the mid-cabin, and like any good AvGeek, I had to go and explore the lavatory. When you open the door to enter it you are welcomed with a nice rich dark blue mood light, but as soon as you lock the door the normal lights kick on so you can actually see what you are doing.

When it came time to flush the toilet I was impressed with the motion sensor that you just wave your hand in front of and it actually closes the lid for you before it flushes. Sometimes the small details count.

Red lights equal hot water, blue lights equal cold. Photo: Brandon Farris

Red lights equal hot water, blue lights equal cold. Photo: Brandon Farris

Next up it was time to wash my hands, just like the flusher, it was also motion-activated, but something new that I have not seen before was the ability to push a button and make the water hotter or cooler.

Once I was done with my lavatory tour we had about an hour left of the flight. I made my way to the R3 door, just behind the wing, where I was able to shoot some pics out of the window.

What a beautiful view: the 787 wing during flight. Photo: Brandon Farris

What a beautiful view: the 787 wing during flight. Photo: Brandon Farris

The down side of catching a 787 flight domestically is it is way too short. As we began our descent into LAX I made my way back to my seat where I sat and stared out the window the entire way down to the ground. Just the flaps and gear were about the only thing I could heard the entire time down. Then we were over the runway and the pilots gracefully touched down on 25L.

As we were turning off of the runway you could see another United 787 taxing in just ahead of us, along with another one about ready to push from the gate to make its way to Tokyo. It was awesome to see three 787’s on the ground all at the same time and they will just become more of a common sight at airports around the world.

Flight deck of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is quite slick. Photo: Brandon Farris

Flight deck of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is quite slick. Photo: Brandon Farris

As soon as we parked at the gate I asked if I could view the flight deck, and I was allowed. The 787 blows me away with all of the big screens.

I was only in LA for a bit before boarding a classic Boeing 737-400 to continue my journey. It really makes you take for granted how advanced aircraft are getting these days. How one design will affect numerous aircraft types, in terms of the Boeing Sky Interior on the 737 Next Generation, to the engine chevrons that reduces noise and are now seen on the 747-8 and will be on the 737 Max.

Arrived at LAX. The nose of the 787 is distinctive. Photo: Brandon Farris

Arrived at LAX. The nose of the 787 is distinctive. Photo: Brandon Farris

I give two thumbs up for the 787 Dreamliner and cannot wait until my next flight – I only hope it will be a bit longer.

Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to Conduct Flight Tests to Auckland

Glad you got to check it out, Brandon! My first time on a Dreamliner was the United flight from Houston to Chicago in July. Since then, I’ve been on the ANA flight from San Jose to Narita, and the United flight from Shanghai to LAX. You’ll really love the 787 on a long flight.

Great article Brandon and congrats on your first Dreamliner ride! I really am surprised at how high-tech even the lavatory is on that thing. I guess the no-touch is where it’s at these days.

Was special permission needed to snap a shot of the cockpit?

Looking fwd to my 1st in 9 days. From Houston to Lagos.
Is the economy + really that better than the economy? I am 5’6″

Mark cassidy

Great report. One question, why did you lose sleep over that particular plane? We’re you going to fly on it that day it had the fire or did you have some one you knew on board?

Glad you finally got to fly on one! I happened to be at Proud Bird that day and caught your flight landing if you’re interested. Cheers. http://www.flickr.com/photos/80321933@N00/11317978524/

Joe in Georgia

Brandon, I flew this very same 7-LATE-7 ( ” 02 ” ) last July; from LHR>IAH. It was my FIRST 787 trip! I had Seat 36A – the last row before the infamous ” honey pot “. I’m PLANE-crazy since age 4 – or thereabouts – around 60 years ago.

United’s early Screamliners were ordered by Continental; and have CO’s IFE system. That’s why they LACK Channel 9 / ATC. Channel 9 is the main reason I tolerate United’s typically DREADFUL and mediocre ” service ” when I fly them! And United’s audio and video programming offered little that attracted my interest / attention! The Flight Map and Details were better than on other UA types. I found the larger window USELESS to me as the additional area is at the TOP of the window – that is, unless you’re an astronaut, stargazer or weather geek! As for me, I want to see what’s BELOW and abeam me; especially on Departure and Climb-out and Descent and Final. Furthermore, my window CONTINUOSLY, for an EXTENDED time period, FULLY darkened – UNCOMMANDED by me!? ( Departure Time out of LHR was 1200, as I now recall ). So, this was a HASSLE for me; micro-managing my window! Using the toilet apparently proved too complex for some pax; as, when I went to do my ” business “, I found the toilet unflushed by the prior user!? ( Who had done a ” dumper ” if you know what I mean ).

I found the higher cabin humidity level unnoticeable. My row and cabin ( Cattle Class ) was full.

So, my FIRST 787 flight didn’t meet my expectations; from all the ” hype ” I’d read about it! My overall impression was that it was yet ANOTHER typical United flight; on a FULL airplane.

In early April, I’ll fly United’s DEN>NRT 787 flight. Hopefully, this will be a better experience!?

I loved reading this story as it your emotions reminded me of my first 787 flight 6 weeks ago on Jetstar Melbourne to the Gold Coast and after 3 days of being in service there were many AvGeeks on board! It was so exciting!!

Just flew on a Korean Air A380 Incheon to Atlanta. They have the same hot/cold selection for hand washing in their lavs. I wonder who was first in installing them; Boeing or Airbus?

I had a bad experience on my flight with a dreamliner beacuse the seats are forwarding jolts/movements very easy. I have been flying a lot the past 30 years and every time I have felt shakings in my seat it has been the person behind me. On the dreamliner it is not only from behind but from all seats that are joined together. I had a young boy about 5 years old 2 seats besides me and he was moving around in the seat a lot and I felt every move he did for 11 hours, The boy had a sister in the seat behind him and she was hitting the boys seat repetedly. Also small movements was passed over to my seat, as when the neighbor wants to change position in the seat a little, I felt it strong enugh to wake me if I slumber.
I belive they have made the seats less stable to save weight.
I will avoid dreamliner in the future

I know what you mean Peter, I spent 4 hours on a 787 recently and due to the narrow seat width couldn’t wait to get off. Unfortunately the bolsters in the seat back seemed to press into my back as well. Like some other comments above I didn’t notice the higher humidity and was wondering where all the mood lightening went – I was looking forward to the starlight ceiling! Sure am not looking forward to my 14hr flight from Australia to LAX in November. Looks like next time I will choose the much more comfortable 777 of Air New Zealand.

Joe in Atlanta, how was the flight from Denver to NRT? I’m debating about flying from Seattle to NRT on ANA’s 787 due to reports mainly about the seats in economy class.

Anyone else want to chime in about their experience on long haul flights on this airplane?


It does look impressive. 7-8 hours flight Toronto-Warsaw was smooth, didn’t feel the turbulence, unfortunately the leg room is a joke and seats are uncomfortable in economy class. I am 5’10”

I recently flew with a Dreamliner (12+h flight) and I was really disappointed. Much less legroom in economy compared to any large Boeing/Airbus planes. Also, the seat only reclines very little. Overall – very uncomfortable flight and therefore a bad experience overall. I will definitely choose different aircraft next time (especially on long-haul flight).

What airline were you flying on? Obviously the airline’s have quite a bit of an impact of what the seat pitch will be, number of seats in a row, etc.


Boeing fan

I agree with the others, economy is really not comfortable. A 737 seat on a regular (not low cost) airliner offers more comfort than the economy seat on Qatar’s 787. 787 is made for 8 seats in a row, not 9, you can really feel that. I prefer a little more space than all the useless bling bling.

Anyone notice a strange and mildly annoying lighting issue in b787? Due to electrochromic windows not requiring shades the windows, especially when dimmed in the darkened cabin actually reflect light from tv screens or reading lights being used by other pax. We’re there shades there’d be no such reflection of annoying light shows emanating from other seats! Interesting and likely a totally unexpected annoyance in an otherwise lovely Air Canada window side business class seat

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