Thanks to my Dad I am a huge aviation geek. I love discovering new airlines, flying new aircrafts, or even just revisit my old favourite – hello Boeing 747-800. Needless to say, when I was emailed about flying with Royal Brunei Airlines to travel on their new Boeing 787 Dreamliner I said yes. There is a lot of new technology in the Dreamliner and my curiosity was piqued and excited for their aircrafts launch in Australia.
Consulting my friend Tyler, an aerospace engineer, he chatted animatedly about his thoughts and the specs of the 787 – it’s the first time using composite materials on a commercial airliner, titanium was used to create a lighter and stronger body, 20% less fuel consumed than the predecessor (Boeing 767), engine nacelles with noise reducing chevrons… the list went on. While I appreciated the knowledge, I just wanted to answer one question: does the Dreamliner offer a better flight experience?
The Slightly-Biased-Because-I’m-A-Boeing-Fan Review of the Dreamliner 787
Heading straight to the boarding gate I didn’t have time to appreciate the design of the plane when leaving Melbourne Airport. I got a glimpse of the nose and part of a redesigned wing, closer mimicking a bird’s wing, through the partially obstructed window before walking down the jetbridge, following the bright lights towards the smiling Royal Brunei crew. I was so excited I almost forgot to say hello to them!
Though the new plane smell had worn away a little – the 787 has been operating on the Melbourne to London (via. Brunei) route since April – the excitement of the flight was still evident with the crew eagerly sharing their experience onboard and citing that they preferred to work on the Dreamliner over the airlines other planes.
One of the goals for the Dreamliner was to connect passengers to the flying experience through space, lighting and the windows.
One thing you’ll immediately notice is the size of the windows. The Dreamliner‘s windows are 60% bigger than previous models which means no more craning your neck from the aisle seat to see the view outside. Another feature that has disappeared is the window shades; replacing the window shades is electrochromatic window shades which means that at a press of a button the windows seem to haze over and enter what I’d like to refer to as “sunglasses mode”. You can still see out of the windows but the sunlight doesn’t filter in and can adjust it across five levels.
Personally, as a person who needs complete darkness to sleep, these windows weren’t fantastic for a day flight; however for those wanting to see outside the window throughout the whole flight this is a great feature.
I thought I’d found something to dislike about the aircraft when I saw how small the overhead baggage compartment looked, but opening it up it was huge! Being redesigned to offer maximum space – Boeing says that each passenger onboard could bring a roll-aboard bag and would still fit comfortably – but the swooping design curves upwards giving the cabin an open, spacious feel.
Boeing also says that the Dreamliner’s new smart LED lighting system will help reduce jet lag through its ambient colour system that imitates the sky and the crew can adjust depending on the situation.
For boarding, Royal Brunei greeted us with a bright blue hues that imitated the natural skies outside. As the cabin dimmed for take-off, the lights danced from blue to a deep bronze and finally a deep violet, before raising the colour from the sky blue to a warm yellow when meal time came around.
On the second leg of my journey from Brunei to Dubai a crew member accidentally pressed the wrong button after take-off and the lights through the cabin turned into a technicolour dream before quickly being corrected and the light sky blue hues and jokes about “where’s the disco held onboard?” were exchanged between my seat mate and I.
There were two things I noticed as I disembarked in London. One, I didn’t drink as much water as usual on the three flights. Two, the air didn’t have that musty, kinda nasty long-haul flight smell that leaves me gasping in fresh air when landing.
I later found out that the Dreamliner’s cabin environment has some very sophisticated technology allowing for lower altitude levels, higher cabin humidity levels to combat the feeling of dryness by the end of the flights and a better air filtration system to eliminate smells and airborne bacteria.
Along with improving the passengers visual experience onboard the Dreamliner, Boeing have tried to improve onboard comfort for all passengers.
Flying business class meant that once the meals were done I could kick back and watch a film in my lie flat bed. Yes, you read that right, a fully lie flat bed that has a length of just under two metres (that’s 6 feet 5 inches), including the personal ottoman, which comes complete with a very fluffy quilt and pillow designed especially for sleep – ahh.. bliss!
The ottoman was also very handy as the front half lifts up, exposing the storage space below, for easy access to small bags or items throughout the flight..
The bathrooms are a bit of a treat as well. All bathrooms are equipped with motion sensors on the sink tap and toilet flush. When you flush the toilet, the lid will be released, meaning you won’t come in to find the toilet lid up any more! There’s also a pull down stand for tying shoe laces and for those brave enough there’s also a bidet!
I do think there’s still room to make a few tweaks to the design. I found the power socket and USB port in Business class to be in kind of awkward position. Unlike other airlines putting it at the base of the centre console it’s located in the ‘storage space’ underneath the centre arm rest.
Also, unlike Royal Brunei’s old business class design – which I didn’t have the chance to fly and only seen photos of – there is no pocket to store your tablet or laptop. The storage slots, 2 for each passenger, has been earmarked for ‘literature only’ though under the shared centre console is where Royal Brunei store their inflight magazine Muhibah. To make these four nooks more useful perhaps Royal Brunei could put open-close latches on them so that customers could store a laptop or tablet without worry that it would fall out, or to make it one larger storage ‘locker’ space where passengers could store a small handbag or inflight essentials.
Finally, I thought that there wasn’t a lot of privacy in the business class cabin. Though the seats were more comfortable, though a little more padding would be nice, I do prefer flying in a seat design that offers a little more privacy, particularly when I’m travelling solo, such as the pod-style or herringbone layout some aircrafts have. I know that Qatar’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner offers a business class pod so I’m keen to travel with them to experience the difference.
I really enjoyed my first experience on Boeing’s 787. The Dreamliner, coupled with Royal Brunei’s super attentive staff, made the trip from Melbourne to London a breeze. I’m not sure if it was the new technology or sleeping quite well that left me feeling a lot better than I normally do after a long-haul flight; though after nearly 27-hours of travel I am ready to stay on solid ground for a few days before flying back to Melbourne with a short stopover in Brunei.
During the flight I had some time to chat with some of Royal Brunei’s cabin crew to find out their opinion on the Dreamliner. One thing was evident when talking to each of the staff members was that they were excited to be flying onboard the Dreamliner and seemed passionate about the product.
“My skin, it feels so much nicer, less dry, after flying the 787,” one crew member assured me, while another reminded me about the smooth ride technology that assisted pilots in detecting and then adjusting the wings to minimise turbulence, something much appreciated during meal service by both crew and passengers.
Come on Nicole, does the Dreamliner offer a better flight experience?
In a word, yes.
It was the little things that made my experience onboard the Dreamliner a little bit better.
It was the sense of space, reducing the sense of claustrophobia and the air quality onboard. It was flying through turbulence but seeming to glide over gently instead of feeling like I was stuck on a rollercoaster and having that extra inch or two of space to relax.
The jury is still out if the Dreamliner is quieter than other aircrafts. On one leg I thought it sounded louder than usual and the other legs quieter. I’m waiting for my return journey to decide.
What about the claims that the Dreamliner can reduce jet lag? Landing in London I am usually knocked out for two to three days with jet lag; I’ll go to bed at 8pm and wake up near midday. This time, I had an early night the evening I landed but was up and ready to begin exploring London by 9am. I want to say that it was because of the Dreamliner’s technology but I’m waiting for my return flight to decide.
Does Boeings Dreamliner 787 offer a better flying experience? I really think it does.
Now it’s over to you
Would you choose a particular airline or flight to experience a certain aircraft?
What would you like to see Boeing engineers do to improve your inflight experience?
My trip onboard was arranged by Royal Brunei Airlines and Boeing.
All thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.
(I am a huge Boeing fan – the 747-800 is my favourite plane – but I have tried to remain impartial in my write up.)
All images are owned by Royal Brunei Airlines, except for the bathroom sensor and bidet image.