Topic of the Week: The 787 Enters Service


If you’re in the US, you may have missed the first flight in service of the 787 this week. That’s because it happened on the other side of the world with ANA’s flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong. Though I wasn’t at the inaugural, there were plenty of others who were there and have been steadily writing about it including AirlineReporter and FlightBlogger. So, now that the 787 is in service, will it really be a game changer?

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21 comments on “Topic of the Week: The 787 Enters Service

  1. Business Class: 62-63.0″ 21.0″ 12 Lie-flat seats with 170 degrees of recline
    Economy Class: pitch 31.0″ width 16.5″ 252 seats More Info

    Passenger comfort is certainly lacking. Narrow, tight seats in ECON Class.

    1. Those economy class seats aren’t that narrow and tight for your average Japanese passenger, and that’s a pretty standard configuration for U.S. domestic carriers.

      1. Not only that…has nothing to do with the 787 as an aircraft. Interiors, particularly seats, are carrier decisions. I never understand when people bring up the seats when we’re talking about a type being revolutionary. I can stick the most cutting edge, comfortable seats in a DC9 and put the crappiest most uncomfortable seats into a 380 or 787.

    2. Two things I’m really curious about as far as passenger comfort:
      1. How much the higher humidity and lower altitude pressurization will affect things. I expect this will be revolutionary from a passenger perspective. Once there are enough 787s flying around I can see people selecting to fly the 787 on those really long haul flights to minimize the effects of jetlag.
      2. The windows. This has the potential to be a bit issue from a policy perspective as it gives the flight attendants a great deal of control. Plus they’re just bigger. Thats gotta count for something.

  2. I think the answer is no and yes.

    Boeing has been throwing around words like “revolutionary” and “game changer” a lot with the 787. It makes for great marketing pieces, but as much as I like Boeing the 787 is just an evolution of aircraft. Looking at the technology used it wasn’t a giant leap forward, but rather a natural progression in technology.

    Carbon fiber was being used on more of the airframe for awhile, especially in the business jet world. Fly by wire has been standard in Airbus for awhile. Sure the cabin humidity is nice, but that is a function of the progression in technology as well. In all the aircraft it self is just the latest evolution in wide-body airframes. They all fly in the same general altitude at the same general speed and they all look about the same. I would go so far as to say that the last revolution in aircraft came when Concorde took flight and then we all devolved when she was pulled from service.

    The airlines on the other hand have more to gain from all this evolution happening. Instead of going for the largest aircraft a la Airbus and the A380, Boeing sought to give airlines a way to connect the dots as they never could before. I think the planned routes like Auckland-Houston are proof of the value of the 787 to an airline. They can serve the long thin routes that before would not have generated the passenger or cargo volume necessary for the larger aircraft with the legs to make the flights.

    In this regard the 787 may be a game changer for the airlines as they will be able to serve routes they have had to pass on before and it allows them to down-guage routes that are on the margins in terms of profit to something that would better fit the passenger and cargo profile for the route. Now an airline will be able to choose a set of long distance aircraft that they can swap out as the traffic ebbs and flows.

    In the end the 787 will be a nice aircraft, but it’s just another flying tube trundling along at ~500mph and 35,000ft. Maybe one day we’ll have another revolution on the scale of Concorde, but it won’t come from Boeing or Airbus. Of that I’m almost certain.

  3. Jason H. hit the nail perfectly. The technology is hardly revolutionary..but the economics will open doors in second-tier markets and give advanced skd planning some capacity leeway. I do believe some seat tweeking is necessary in Y if carriers are going to deploy the 78 on 10+ hour missions.

  4. Dear people-who-know-about-these-things-than-I-do,

    Any chance that the 37 787’s Air Canada will be getting in 2013(ish) can be used to get Ottawa some better direct international flights? Seriously – this the the *capital* of the country and you can fly non-stop to basically Chicago or Frankfurt. That’s pretty much it. Did I mention it’s the capital!?

    I’m guessing the answer is probably no…. most likely Toronto / Montreal / Vancouver will get some cool new direct flights and I’ll be stuck connecting through O’Hare still… like a sucker…

    1. i’ve actually flown into/out of YOW. i love your city and airport but you will never, ever, ever see an air canada 787 in regular service at YOW!

      just curious – can’t you connect through YYZ better than ORD?

  5. I don’t think the 787 will be a game changer.

    The Boeing 707 was a game changer. It brought a major increase in speed and improved economics over piston driven planes. It also allowed the Dodgers and Giants to move to the west coast.

    The 787 will be evolutionary. It will open up new markets that can be flown profitably with its improved range and fuel burn. It won’t lower labor costs by shortening travel times. Its impact will be more incremental than game changing. That’s not bad. The 787 is still an improvement on many fronts.

    A real game changer would be a supersonic aircraft that sips fuel like a turboprop. Then Major League Baseball can expand to Japan. Anything short of that isn’t a game changer in my book.

    1. I think the “no sonic boom” crowd would kill any new supersonic aircraft. As much as I’d love to see a new one, as I stated above. That being said our next revolutionary step might be “edge of space” flight. In effect that is what Concorde was doing at its time. When it was rocketing along in the 50-60,000ft range it was near the edge of space for that time. Now edge of space is agreed to be much higher (it varies between ~327,000 and 385,000ft). Perhaps the next revolution in aircraft would be to push up to 250,000 ft. At that height the “sonic boom” would be much less of an issue since there is so much less air to… well… boom.

      1. You’re probably right about the “boomers.” I also feel that sub orbital travel may be the next real game changer, at least for very long flights.

        I find it interesting that current aircraft seem to cruise at slower speeds than older ones. I guess it’s part of the fuel economy strategy. There’s a point of diminishing returns that shapes engineering trade offs. It’s quite likely that higher speeds don’t make much difference in the day to day operation of a commercial airliner and a slower cruising speed does save fuel. After all, no one has repealed the laws of physics.

        In any event, I guess any opinion about the 787 being a game changer depends on how one defines the term. I was trying to define what I felt was a game changer.

  6. Yes, the aircraft in many senses is “evolutionary”, but in many others, particularly in technology, it is a game changer.

    The use of electrics in many systems that usually were hydraulic or pneumatic is an example. Electric Brakes, Landing Gear, Anti-Ice, Pressurization…

    Yes, in all those senses, it is evolutionary.



  7. I’m really with Jason H on this one, and I think you said it well. This is a game changer for airlines because of what it opens up for them.

    This is the first airplane of this size that can fly long distances economically. So to YOW-zers question, it does open up the possibility of longer haul flying from Ottawa. Routes that might have been marginal losers before can be winners on this airplane. I expect we’ll see routes like Denver to Tokyo on ANA one of these days. It probably doesn’t make sense on a 777, but on a 787 it very well may.

    Now, it is more of an evolutionary aircraft, but I do think it, well, changes the game in some cases.

    1. So is it a game changer along the lines of the 777, which presumably also opened up new routes that the larger 747 couldn’t economically serve? If so, doesn’t it just mean another iteration in a constantly changing game? ;)

  8. In a world of permanent high energy prices I think the 787 can be a big game changer. At $20 oil the 380 is a big deal, but at $100+ oil the 787 is the bigger deal. If what Boeing promised in efficiency is true my guess is that in the future all commerical aircraft will be built to the specs that the 787 is. My only question is what will we say when the first 787 is retired? No more references to old aircraft becoming beer cans.

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