Air Canada 787-9 Dreamliner pictured at YVR

With the Dreamliner typically stuck on international duty, it’s been hard to fulfill my Dreamliner Quest. In January, on a trip to Montreal, I finally succeeded! – Photo: John Jamieson

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by commercial aircraft. When I was a kid, I tried my best to learn everything about my two favorite jets: the Fokker F28 and the Boeing 747. Supposedly, when I was in grade one, my teacher found me on Cathay Pacific’s website trying to book a flight to Hong Kong. As I remember it, I was looking up facts about the airline’s new triple-7 fleet.

When Boeing announced plans to build the 7E7, I remember receiving a newspaper clipping from my grandmother. The article, plucked from the pages of the Vancouver Sun, described the aircraft as a “Long-Haul Gamechanger.” With its largely composite design, this aircraft was reportedly going to revolutionize fuel consumption.

Bonus: Dreamliners Going the Distance: New Ultra-Long-Haul Routes For Boeing’s 787

Despite having only flown on a few commercial aircraft (at the time), Boeing’s new jet captured my attention more than any other plane I had yet to encounter. Maybe it was the fancy name or all the marketing hype at the time… it didn’t matter! When the 787 took to the skies in 2011, I needed to fly on it. Little did I know that my Dreamliner Quest would last almost 10 years. On a recent cross-Canada trip to Montreal, I finally succeeded!

It was time to find out what I’d been missing and see if it lived up to all the hype…

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The COVID-19 pandemic has progressed significantly since this story was published at the beginning of March and recommendations for travel have changed. Please consult more recent guidance from government authorities in informing your plans.

COVID-19: It’s here, it’s spreading, and it has people very worried. Public health authorities everywhere are hard at work containing this newest coronavirus strain, but the global ripple effects are already huge. And as with previous infectious disease outbreaks air travel is getting a lot of scrutiny as a potential means of disease spread across borders.

Orbis Flying Eye Hospital

Feeling stressed? Here’s two adorable teddy bears on a flying hospital on an MD-11 – Photo: Orbis International

There’s no certainty about how far the disease will spread and how the aviation world will respond. But since some of you may have trips on the books or plans in the works, I wanted to take a brief moment to share some thoughts and resources. We discuss the basics of the virus, the level of risk if you fly during the epidemic, how to reduce your risk, whether you need to change your flight plans, and how coronavirus is impacting the aviation industry.

Before we dive into things, two big caveats:

  • I’m a physician in my day job, but I’m NOT a trained public health professional or an infectious disease specialist. You should be paying closest attention to the updates and recommendations of trustworthy sources like the CDC and WHO.
  • This story is evolving fast, so no guarantees that everything in here is up to date at the time you read this.

Read on for a quick take on the state of flying in the era of COVID-19, and what the epidemic may mean for you.

What a view! Could you imagine just seeing an L1011 on the beach?

What a view! Could you imagine just seeing an L1011 on the beach? – Photo: Jerome de Vries

I was recently in Cotonou for a 24-hour layover. Cotonou is the largest city of the small west African nation of Benin, and has become a secondary hub for emerging airline RwandAir. Taking advantage of its growing network, I booked a RwandAir ticket from Dakar, Senegal to Kigali, Rwanda via Cotonou. The transit stop included accommodation provided by the airline.

What is there to do in Cotonou? A quick Google search indicated that the closest attraction to the hotel was on the beach: an ‘amusement park’ called Air de Jeux Plage Erévan. This ‘park’ appeared to include a large-looking aircraft, so I decided to check it out. Little did I know the airframe was a historic Lockheed L1011 TriStar, full of amazing clues about its long and varied history around the world.

An L1011 on the beach, seen from space.

Mystery plane? – Image: Google Maps

Founded in 1919, KLM is actually the world’s oldest airline still flying under its original name. How do you keep an airline with that long of a history feeling fresh? New planes definitely help, and for KLM’s long-haul fleet the freshest faces are its 787 Dreamliners.

Since joining the fleet a few years ago, the 787-9 has been KLM’s pride and joy. One of my very first AirlineReporter stories was a KLM pop-up exhibit in San Francisco back in 2016. Both then and now, folks at the airline are super proud of the Dreamliner fleet and its newest-generation onboard product. A few months ago, I scored a great deal on an award ticket from San Francisco to Amsterdam and on to Rio, and I’d get to try KLM’s long-haul Dreamliner service along the way. And it ended up being one of the best international business class experiences I’ve had.

For more of the highlights — from gin-filled ceramic houses and fancy Dutch glassware, to bubbly flight attendants and incredible views of that Dreamliner wing flex — keep on reading!