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The Boeing 787 Dreamliner: everything you need to know

What is it?

Constructed from 50 per cent composite materials, including the groundbreaking use of carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP,) the Boeing Dreamliner claims to use 20 per cent less fuel than similarly sized aircrafts. The 787 also boasts a noise footprint 60 per cent lower than similar aircraft; for example at London Heathrow all noise on takeoff will be contained within the airport grounds.

The 787’s range of up to 8,500 nautical miles means that it can link the UK’s regional airports with direct flights to previously unreachable destinations. For example, the 787 will be capable of flying direct from Bristol to Honolulu, Santiago or Bali.

The 787 Dreamliner features a state-of-the-art flight deck that balances familiar Boeing controls, displays and procedures with new additions such as the Dual Head-Up Display (HUD), a large flat panel multifunction display which is located directly in the pilot’s eyeline and looks vaguely like something from a science-fiction movie.

The cabin features large windows with individual electrochromic dimming functions instead of traditional pull down blinds, meaning even when fully dimmed passengers will be able to enjoy the view without disturbing fellow passengers.

Kent Craver, regional director of passenger satisfaction and revenue for Boeing explains: “Windows can be controlled individually or en masse by flight attendants. If it’s an overnight flight but it’s light outside, the attendants can dim all of the windows – leaning over food trays or people sleeping to close them will be a thing of the past.”

The twin-engined, twin-aisled Dreamliner has a capacity of between 250 and 290 passengers depending on configuration.

Other cabin features include adjustable LED lighting, which Boeing says “can gently simulate a full flying day for longer flights, gradually changing through a spectrum of lighting from day into night.” Fresh air is introduced into the cabin via air scoops on the side of the fuselage and special filters mean that air is purer than on older aircraft, leading to less skin irritation. The 787’s cabin is pressurized to a new maximum level of 6,000 feet – 2,000 feet lower than most other aircraft meaning fewer headaches and reduced levels of fatigue.

New overhead bins are larger and can fit four regulation-size (10in x 12in x 24in/25cm x 30cm x 61cm) pieces of hand baggage in each. The 787 is also equipped with Smoother Ride Technology which senses turbulence and commands wing control surfaces to counter it.

If all of this sounds a little underwhelming then Tom Galantowicz, director of 787 interiors for Boeing, says: “It’s not about the windows, it’s not about the lighting or the shape of the bins, it’s about all of those things working together. You can’t truly appreciate it until you are in the space and feel it.” However, the interior will partly be down to the individual airline, which will be able to choose from a selection of seats, colour schemes, in-flight entertainment, galley fittings and washrooms.


There are three British carriers with orders currently in place for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner: Thomson, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

Thomson Airways will be the first British carrier to receive the aircraft in May 2013, after placing initial orders for 13 aircraft in 2005. The aircraft will serve Florida and Cancun from Gatwick, Manchester, East Midlands and Glasgow and will be in a two-class configuration.

The Thomson Dreamliner will carry 291 passengers, with 47 in Premium Club class in a 2-3-2 configuration with a 38” seat pitch, and 244 Economy Club seats in a 3-3-3 configuration, each with 33”- 34” pitch.

Virgin Atlantic has purchased 15 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, with an option to add a further 28 aircraft, with the view to replacing its A340-300 fleet.

On initially ordering the aircraft Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson said, "The Dreamliner will bring a step change to the industry, substantially reducing environmental impact and incorporating innovative design and advanced technology, while providing an enhanced flying experience for our passengers."

Virgin expects delivery towards the end of 2014, and has announced that it will be fitting the Dreamliner in a three-class configuration, with the new Upper Class suite (see online news April 23) onboard.

British Airways has a total of 24 Dreamliners on order with 16 being the larger 787-9 model.

All Nippon Airways’ (ANA) was the launch customer for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and its first aircraft will be used for short-haul routes, so is configured with angled lie-flat business class seating instead of the fully-flat ones it will be using for its long-haul services. Economy class seats have a 32-inch pitch, as opposed to 34 inches on its long-haul versions.

As you can see from the seat plan here, business class occupies the front two rows in a 2-2-2 (A-C, D-G, H-K) layout. Economy is across rows three to 34 and is in a 2-4-2 (A-C, D-E-F-G, H-K) configuration.

ANA introduced its first international service in December 2011, starting with Haneda-Beijing, followed by a new route between Haneda and Frankfurt from January 2012. Senior vice-president of ANA, Satoru Fujiki said: “In total we will take delivery of 55 B787s by the end of 2017.” A spokesperson told our sister title Business Traveller that London was “one of the possible destinations we are considering”.

To read a Tried and Tested review of the inaugural flight operated by delivery customer ANA from our colleagues at Business Traveller Asia-Pacific, click here.

Other major airlines with orders include the Air France-KLM Group with 25 B787-9s on order.

Air Berlin has 15 B787s on order with options and purchase rights on a further 15 aircraft, with deliveries due to begin in 2015. Middle Eastern carrier Etihad is the largest customer for the Dreamliner with 41 on firm order, and 25 options, with the first batch due for delivery between 2014 and 2019. The two partner carriers are the first to announce a joint agreement to integrate Dreamliner programmes in a cost cutting scheme that will see them pool resources, maintenance and parts.

Air India is expected to take delivery of its first Dreamliner aircraft in May 2012, if an agreement can be reached with striking pilots over the training schedule. In January Business Traveller revealed Air India will configure its B787s with 256 seats in a two-class configuration.

Air New Zealand has ten 787-9s on order.

Aero Mexico also has ten 787s on order.

Ethiopian Airlines will take delivery of its first Boeing Dreamliner aircraft in August 2012, with an inaugural passenger flight between Washington Dulles and Addis Ababa taking place on Thursday August 16. The carrier placed its order for ten Dreamliners back in 2005, and will be the first African airline to take delivery of the Boeing aircraft, which will be configured with 246 economy and 24 Cloud Nine business class seats.

LOT Polish Airlines is the European launch customer for the Dreamliner and has eight on order. The carrier is fitting the aircraft with 18 full-flat business class seats, 21 premium economy with IFE screens in the armrest and 213 economy seats with personal IFE systems, as well as onboard wifi throughout. The aircraft will first serve European destinations before expanding to North America.

Qatar Airways has fitted new business and economy class seats on its B787 aircraft, which will contain 254 seats in a two-class configuration, with 22 seats in business class and 232 in economy.

With a 1–2–1 business class configuration, passengers can sit in a 22-inch armchair that converts into different cradle positions, before reaching an 80-inch long, 30-inch wide flat bed.

In economy, configured 3–3–3, the Recaro-produced seats features 7 inches recline, a pitch of 32 inches and just under 17 inches width.

Qatar Airways has 30 Dreamliners on order, with options on another 30 and will use the aircraft between Heathrow and Doha.

Qantas has announced it will push back service entry of its Dreamliners as a way of reducing expenditure between 2012 and 2013. The carrier was originally scheduled for delivery in mid-2013 however a new delivery date has not yet been announced. Of the 50 Dreamliners Qantas has on order, 15 will be used to replace some of Jetstar’s A330-200 aircraft in order to give the low-cost carrier a competitive edge. 

Japan Airlines (JAL) took delivery of its first two Dreamliners in March 2012 to be deployed on its new Boston service. The carrier has placed orders for 20 of the slightly larger Boeing B787-9 aircraft of the Dreamliner family as part of its mid-term management plans for 2012 through to 2016.

The 20 orders will be deployed on the carrier’s medium and long haul international network from 2015 onwards, including Beijing, Singapore, New Delhi, Moscow, Helsinki and San Diego. JAL already has an additional 25 firm orders for the Dreamliner, bringing the carrier’s total to 45.

United Airlines’ first Boeing B787 Dreamliner is due for delivery in the second half of 2012, although a confirmed date has not been released. Upon delivery, the aircraft will be launched on the long-haul Houston-Auckland route.

United will be the first North American carrier to operate the Dreamliner, configured with 36 seats in business class, 63 in premium economy and 120 in economy. At present, United Continental Holdings has a total of 50 Dreamliners on order, originally 25 each.

United also announced it will utilise the range of the Dreamliner to launch daily direct flights between Denver and Tokyo from March 31 2013.

Air Canada’s first five deliveries of its Boeing 787 aircraft, previously scheduled for the second half of 2013, are now targeted for delivery during the fourth quarter of 2013 and the first half of 2014. Air Canada currently has 32 firm orders in total.

The 787 programme was launched in April 2004 with a record order from launch customer All-Nippon Airways. Fifty-eight customers have placed orders for 851 airplanes valued over $175 billion, making it the most successful twin-aisle launch of a new commercial airplane in Boeing's history. The 787 programme opened its final assembly plant in Everett in May 2007 with the first flight occurring on December 15, 2009. Boeing hopes to construct 3,300 units between 2011 and 2030.


To see a full list of the carriers due to fly the 787 Dreamliner, click here:

Boeing took the aircraft on a world tour, touching down at London Heathrow where got the chance to take a look. 


China Eastern cancelled its order of 24 Boeing B787 Dreamliner aircraft due to further delivery delays.

Monarch Airlines has cancelled its order for six Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, citing a decision to focus on short-haul operations.


The launch of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner has experienced numerous setbacks over the last few years, including a strike at Boeing’s manufacturing plant in Seattle in 2009, and the lack of availability of Rolls Royce engines needed for the final stages of flight tests in 2010.

Initial delivery of the aircraft slipped back following an in-flight fire during testing late in November 2010, leading to the less than flattering nickname “the Seven Late Seven.” Then in October 2011 The US Government Accountability Office raised four concerns about repairs to the composites used for the aircraft’s fuselage and wings, including airplane composite structures; technical issues with the materials’ unique properties; standards for repairs; and training and awareness.

In July 2012 ANA reported issues with a component of its Rolls Royce engines (other airlines have opted for General Electric engines) leading to the grounding of several aircraft. 

Dreamliner index

  • 3 Number of years late on delivery
  • 7 Number of B787s Boeing can build a month
  • 58 Number of airlines that have placed orders
  • 100 Kilometres of wiring for a B787
  • 530 Kilometres of wiring for an A380
  • 851 Number of B787s on order
  • 1,500 Number of aluminium sheets saved by using a single-piece carbon composite fuselage
  • $193.5 millon Price for one B787
  • US$32 billion Estimated expenditure by Boeing on the project
  • US$175 billion Total value of B787s on order
  • 15,200km Maximum range of B787 (Equivalent to London-Perth)
  • 15,400km Maximum range of A380
  • 20% Efficiency in fuel consumption
  • 30% Increase in size of windows
  • 50% Amount of composite material used
  • 60% Reduction in engine noise


To read Jenny Southan’s feature Living the Dream, from the December/January 2011 edition of our sister publication, Business Traveller magazine, click here.

Visit for continuing B787 coverage.

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Scott Carey