Boeing shows off 787

All Nippon Airways co-president Shinichiro Ito with a model of Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft....
All Nippon Airways co-president Shinichiro Ito with a model of Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. All Nippon will get the first 787 off the production line later this year. Air New Zealand is expected to see its first 787 in 2013. Continental Airlines last week announced it would use a 787 on a new route between Auckland and Houston, Texas, starting next year.
The Boeing 787, or Dreamliner, is likely to be part of your travelling for most of the rest of your life.

With more than 800 on order, it will fill the skies until well toward the middle of the century.

I travelled to Seattle, to take a look - mainly at the inside, where the travelling public will spend hundreds or even thousands of hours.

I came away impressed - and disappointed.

Kent Craver, the "regional director of passenger satisfaction and revenue," showed me around a mock-up of the 787 interior.

Boeing knows that aircraft manufacturers have a built-in problem with their customers, he said.

"No-one would choose to sit for several hours on a plane," he said.

"They're bored or angry when using our product."

The company consulted with psychologists, cultural anthropologists - and Disney - to improve the passenger experience.

The key is trying to get people away from the feeling that they are being forced into a very large toothpaste tube.

With airports a source of traveller anxiety, the move to the new plane should also signal a switch in attitude.

"We want to create a psychological separation, so people leave their ground experience on the ground and feel welcomed," Craver said.

It starts with an open lobby-like area at the aircraft doorway.

On entry, there's a lot to like.

Sculpted design and LED lights give the interior a feeling - perhaps illusion - of height, width and light.

I was pleased to see that individual overhead air blowers were back, so your seatmate's garlic-soaked carry-on lunch can be counter-attacked.

"As much as possible, people want a personal space that they can control," Craver said.

Bathrooms are bigger, so passengers can change clothes without squirming around like a crazy man in a straightjacket.

Even the big bins are psychologically calming.

No worries that you won't be able to store your bag over your seat.

The powerful hinges don't require Herculean strength on your tippytoes to close.

Up front, it's a wonderful world of fold-flat first-class seats and fat business-class seats that look like flying La-Z-Boy recliners designed by the Jetsons.

Boeing expects that the 787 will become the go-to airliner of the high-end flier.

"The business traveller knows his or her aircraft because they spend so much time on them," Craver said.

"This plane will be preferred, extremely preferred, by business travellers."

Great! And how about the rest of us? Welcome back to reality.

No matter what designers pull out of their bag of tricks, the crush of economy-class seats, even when empty in a showroom, brings on shudders.

Boeing has suggested to airlines that they use a "3-2-3" seat layout of eight seats per row, separated by two aisles.


Most airlines have opted for the "other" option of an elbow-crunching nine-across "3-3-3" layout.

The future of flight might be brighter and more colorful, but it comes with the nightmare of 44cm-wide seats creating the familiar sardine effect in economy class.

"It all comes down to revenue," Craver said.

"In economy class, it is all about price, and most passengers are not willing to pay a dime for extras, including space."

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