An Inside Look at the Boeing 787 That Will Soon Operate the World's Longest Flight
On March 24, 2018, the new longest commercial flight in the world will launch from Perth (PER) to London (LHR). For the first time ever, Europe and Australia will be connected by a nonstop flight. And operating that 9,010-mile route will be Qantas' newest addition to its fleet — the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. We recently got a look at the jet in Los Angeles.
The carrier currently has two of the aircraft in its fleet — "Waltzing Matilda" (VH-ZNB) and "Great Southern Land" (VH-ZNA). By the time Qantas launches the new world's longest route, it will have four 787s in its fleet. Then, by the end of 2018, it expects to have taken delivery of all eight Dreamliners it had ordered. As of now, the only international routes that have been announced that will be operated by the 787s are:
- Melbourne (MEL) — Los Angeles (LAX); as of December 15, 2017
- Perth (PER) — London (LHR); as of March 24, 2018
- Melbourne (MEL) — San Francisco (SFO); as of late 2018
When the delivery of its first four Dreamliners is complete, Qantas is set to retire two of its aging 747s. Then, by the end of 2018, it will retire an additional three, replaced with the more fuel-efficient 787s. Eventually, Qantas plans to phase out its 747s entirely.
The Qantas 787 is flying some domestic routes right now to help crews familiarize with the aircraft before going on ultra-long-haul flights expected to last more than 17 hours, and we had a chance to review one of them before we take part in the inaugural PER-LHR flight.
Qantas' Dreamliner is equipped with three cabins: business, premium economy and economy, for 236 passengers total, a relatively low number for a 787-9: El Al's is equipped to carry 282 passengers, Air New Zealand's hold 302 passengers, United's 789s carry 252 passengers and American's hold 285. To find fewer seats on a 787-9 than Qantas has, you need to go to Japan, where ANA has just 215 on some and JAL 195.
The business-class cabin has 42 lie-flat seats, which Qantas calls "mini-first." Each offers a generous 24-25 inches of width and seat pitch of 46 inches. When the seat is in its lie-flat bed position, it measures 80 inches long — or almost 6'7".
The Dreamliner's business-class cabin is arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, meaning every passenger has direct aisle access. On the 747s that it's phasing out, Qantas business-class seats are arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration.
The cabin itself is split into two mini cabins, one at the front of the aircraft with 30 seats and one behind it with 12. In between are a galley and two lavatories.
As for the seats, don't expect to find any revolutionary features. That being said, they are a step above Qantas' previous premium options. You'll also get all the standard features, such as a good amount of storage, reading lights and more.
In between the two center seats, there's an adjustable partition for privacy, which can stay lowered if you're sitting next to someone you know.
Each seat has a 16-inch touchscreen in-flight entertainment system. As you'd expect for a new aircraft, the screens themselves are responsive and sharp. In the armrest of each seat is also a smaller remote control so if you're in the lie-flat position, you can control the screen without having to sit back up.
At each of the seats, you'll also find a USB charging port and a power outlet.
The seats are designed to be able to remain in a reclined position from takeoff until landing — a positive feature.
Qantas worked with experts to come up with techniques to help passengers relax and reduce the effects of jet lag. So, expect to find cabin lighting, bedding, meal times and more designed to help people cope with the kind of ultra-long flights this plane is capable of.
Behind business, you'll come across the premium economy cabin, with 28 seats in a 2-3-2 configuration with 38 inches of pitch, 22.8 inches wide and with 9.5 inches of recline. That's more legroom and width than most other 787-9 operators; only New Zealand offers more pitch at 41 inches.
The seat backs are very aesthetically pleasing. The light brown leather against the silver and black features of the seat-back is a nice look.
Qantas worked hard to separate this new premium economy cabin from competitors, and it surely has a lot going for it. For example, the foot rest. You can pull a level that drops the foot netting, allowing you to put your feet inside. Once your seat is reclined, you'll be able to sit back with your feet in the netting, which is meant to make you feel like you're almost floating. I sat in the seat to test it out for a couple of minutes and found it to be very comfortable. You can read TPG's own JT Genter experience with the product.
Each seat is in its own shell, which creates a sense of privacy from your neighbors — not as much as in business class, but surely more than in economy. On the edge of each of the headrests is a reading light. The armrest between seats is spacious, with a small flat surface at the end to place drinks or phones.
However, when the seat in front is reclined, the space is severely reduced. If you're in the middle of the cabin and need to get out but the person in front is reclined, your seatmates will have to get up and you'll likely have to semi-squeeze out.
The 13-inch touchscreen in-flight entertainment screen is built into the seat-back for most passengers in the cabin, however, for the bulkhead seats, it's in the armrest. The screens tilt so you're able to adjust if the passenger in front of you is reclined.
As you continue to move farther back, you'll hit the economy cabin. The 166 seats are in a 3-3-3 configuration except for a 2-3-2 last row.
Each of the seats in the cabin features 32 inches of pitch and 17.2 inches of width. Economy passengers will be happy to know that each of the seats features 6 inches of recline, which is more than you'll find on most competing products.
One way that Qantas is hoping to set its economy cabin apart from the competition is with storage. Each of the seats has a built-in device shelf so you can rest your tablets at eye level, making it much easier to have them hands free and in front of you. You'll also find the typical literature storage below the IFE screen, as well as a separate compartment to store beverages.
Each of the seats has a 12-inch touchscreen entertainment screen, as well as adjustable headrests. You'll also have access to both USB and power plugs, as well as a foot net.
The lack of Wi-Fi on the new Qantas Dreamliners is one of the biggest drawbacks for the product. For an airline that's placed an emphasis on offering a premium passenger experience with its hard product, Wi-Fi seems like a necessity for travelers on long-haul routes, especially a nonstop from Australia to Europe. That being said, the airline did confirm that it's considering adding Wi-Fi technology to its Dreamliners. However, it won't begin that process — if it does at all — until it takes delivery of all eight of its 787s at the end of 2018.
At the rear of the economy cabin and at the front of the business cabin are two snack bars for passengers to choose from while in-flight.
A Qantas rep said that the economy snack bar — a rarity in coach class — will feature smaller grab-and-go options for passengers to take back to their seats, as well as a selection of drinks.
As for lavatories, the 787 is well equipped for the number of passengers it will carry. You'll find one at the front of the business-class cabin in front of the cockpit door, two in between the two business-class mini cabins, two toward the front of the economy cabin and two at the rear of the aircraft near the large crew galley.
The galley at the rear of the aircraft is huge. Passengers can expect to find plenty of space to stand up and stretch their legs while on long-haul flights. The economy snack bar is attached to the galley.
As is the norm with Dreamliners, you can expect to find windows with dimming features. There are no traditional window shades. Rather, you'll use the buttons below the window itself to dim and brighten the window.
Overall, if you're going to be flying on the soon-to-be world's longest flight, there's a lot to look forward to with the Qantas Dreamliner hard product. From a spacious cabin with fewer seats to new options, there's plenty to make the experience comfortable. That being said, there are drawbacks, such as no Wi-Fi and a premium economy cabin that's a bit tight on space. If you're interested in trying it out for yourself, there are still seats available on the inaugural flight from PER to LHR.
Stay tuned for another post with information on the best seats to choose in each of the three cabins.