Check This Box off My Bucket List: Dreamliner Dreams Fulfilled

1:08 PM

By Dan Pimentel,

Airplanista Blog Editor

You have to go way back to 2005 to understand my appreciation for Boeing’s Dreamliner, back when it was being called the 7E7. But when it was officially unveiled in 2007, it had become the 787, a nice “Boeing-ish” number that fit well into their established airliner numbering system. There was of course the 707, 727 and 737, the “Queen of the Skies” 747, a 757, 767 and the monster Triple Seven. So it made sense that the Dreamliner was to be known as the “787” and the “7E7” name was scrapped.
I clearly remember the Dreamliner’s first flight in 2009, it marked the dawn of a new era in airliner construction. The 787 is built of composite materials instead of all-aluminum, and it had been a personal bucket list item to fly in one. On May 6, on my way to an extended EU vacation, I was able to check off that bucket list box courtesy of a business class flight from Toronto to Copenhagen on an Air Canada Dreamliner.
Making 550 knots or 907 kilometers an hour over the North Atlantic.
I knew not long after we departed Toronto that the 787 was a very well-engineered ship. Major environmental improvements in cabin ventilation, interior lighting and soundproofing made the ride quite enjoyable. It is quiet, smooth, with as much clean air as you care to gulp down. The Dreamliner also seemed very fast, or at least that’s what the numbers on the screen in front of my biz class seat were telling me because from the middle seats of the business class cabin, you can barely see out the windows, so there is very little reference to tell you that you’re flying in a big pressurized tube high up in the flight levels. Which brings me to part 2 of this post:
While the ergonomics of Air Canada’s business class seats was adequate, they made one gigantic blunder that cannot be ignored. The business class cabin has a row of seats down each side, with pairs of seats between the two aisles. But between the inside seat pairs is a high partition that cannot be removed or lowered. This means a couple flying together must sit in separate cubicles in the middle seats, or one behind the other in the side rows.

This was the view of my wife Julie Celeste on our trip across the pond in
business class aboard Air Canada's 787 Dreamliner.
So my wife and I had to fly the whole trip not really seeing each other, on our way to a vacation we’d spent years planning. Sure, we could stand up, reach WAY over and maybe nudge the other to look up and say hello, but it was such a stretch, my wife spilled red wine leaning so far over on one attempt to communicate with me.
For single travelers, Air Canada’s business class seats are great…very private and comfortable. But once you sit down, forget having any conversation with anyone in front of you or behind, or on either side. The cabin resembled a major office, with cubicles all the same height filled with people hunkered down doing whatever.
From my vantage point in one of the middle seats roughly in the middle of the cabin, there was what felt like 10’ to the right side windows, and 15’ to the left windows. Even with the Dreamliner’s larger windows, this felt like a flying call center, not an airplane cabin. The only clue I had when we departed Toronto at 9 p.m. was a blur of taxiway lights flying past the windows. As soon as we rotated, until we were on short final into CPH, there was no visual clues that this flying cubicle farm was high over the North Atlantic because the Dreamliner was delivering such a smooth ride.
Overall, I give the Air Canada 787 business class experience a solid 6 on the #PaxEx 10 scale, if there is such a thing. The food was decent, the service was adequate, and the seats and infotainment system was respectable. It was a very comfortable way to get across the pond, but the Lufthansa business class ride over on my last trip in an A380 eclipsed this Air Canada trip in almost every way.
As to the Dreamliner itself, it lived up to my expectations. I have to give it a full 10 on that #PaxEx scale, I could not find anything to critique with Boeing's big twin-engine wide-body. With windows that darken, and a lighting system that slowly wakes the cabin back up at the arrival end of a red-eye, I arrived refreshed and ready to blast through four stops in the EU through three countries.
And I am really glad that despite not seeing Julie for seven hours on the flight over the pond, she arrived at the same time as I did, as her cubicle and mine touched down at the exact same time.
So thank you Boeing engineers for designing a very capable airliner, and shame on Air Canada’s interior design team for not making it super easy to remove that stupid divider wall between the inside business class seats. It should have only taken the FA pushing two tiny buttons, pulling up the divider if requested and stowing somewhere…this is not rocket science here. Kind of blows my mind that on such a technologically advanced flying machine, someone could overlook such a mundane and yet very important part of the passenger experience.
Watch for part two of this series, when I compare the ride back, also business class, flying Swiss Air on an Airbus A330-300.

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