Our Thoughts: Introducing United’s First Boeing 787-8

Photo: Dan King / NYC Aviation.

On Wednesday, United rolled out their first Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, fresh out of Paine Field’s paint hangar. There’s no denying that the aircraft looks great from the outside, and the gold racing stripe they’ve added to the side of the fuselage looks spectacular, and provides a much-needed distraction from the otherwise plain Eurowhite livery.

We weren’t there (due to our Cape Cod vacation wrapping up), but our friends at AirlineReporter.com and NYCAviation.com were. We’ve taken a look through their pictures, and here are our impressions.

Tech Specs

United has the 787-8 configured in a three-class, 219-seat configuration. There are 36 BusinessFirst seats, configured in a 2-2-2 configuration. Moving further back, there are 72 seats in United’s EconomyPlus, which is really comprised of Economy seats with extra legroom. Finally, there are 111 Economy seats configured in a 3-3-3 configuration.

The 787 on the tarmac at Paine Field (Photo: AirlineReporter.com)

How It Looks

As with any airplane, there are positives and negatives. Let’s first start in Economy, since that’s where most of us will fly.

  • So-So: The 3-3-3 configuration seems tight, especially considering that both ANA and JAL have seats configured in a 2-4-2, 8-abreast configuration.
  • Positive: There are PTVs and USB ports at each seats, meaning that your devices can stay powered up on a long haul flight (though, in this day and age, we don’t expect anything less).
  • Negative: The economy cabin seems very, well, normal. Perhaps it’s a personal preference thing, but there’s just too much blue everywhere. The blue fabric seats seem very outdated. Again, perhaps it’s a preference thing or just the way the cabin mood lighting was set up for the event, but the two-toned economy seats on ANA’s 787 have much more of a pop, never mind the tan seats and bright Economy cabin on JAL’s 787.

The Economy cabin on United’s 787 (Photo: AirlineReporter.com)

Moving forward to Business, it feels like more of the same. The United 787 features Continental’s lie-flat BusinessFirst seats. There’s really not much to elaborate on, as the configuration is no different from that on an ex-Continental 777. The A/B seats have a slight angling towards the left hand side of the airplane, while the D/E and K/L seats angle right.

The BusinessFirst seat is comfortable, according to AirlineReporter’s David Parker Brown, but Brown notes that the product is “far from revolutionary.”

BusinessFirst seat. (Photo: AirlineReporter.com)

The Good News

Though the 787’s configuration may look dated now, changes are coming in the future. According to the Airline Passenger Experience Association, “United (then Continental) placed its order for IFE and seats a number of years ago (these were selected from the 787 catalogue). Since that time, the industry has seen rapid advancements in onboard technology.” Putting that fact together with the reality that the 787 program has suffered so many delays, Boeing is pushing hard to just get these 787s off the line, meaning that United will have to live with an outdated 787 interior for a while.

Not to worry, though. Says APEX, “…Boeing is expected to ultimately cut into production and add the new integrated monitors,” and a United spokesman says that “[United] is ‘working aggresively with Boeing on this.’” The 787s will eventually be fitted with the product that United is currently fitting ex-Continental 767-400s with.

For more photos of the event, as well as the aircraft, visit AirlineReporter.com.