For my return trip from Europe last week, I flew Norwegian Air from London to LA. The plane happened to be a Boeing 787 Dreamliner — a newish and much-anticipated aircraft that is supposed to make flying more comfortable.
Among the 787’s most exciting innovations is cabin pressure that’s set to a lower altitude, so it feels like you’re only 6,000 feet in the air rather than 8,000 as is the case on other planes. The 787 also has bigger windows, “dynamic LED lighting,” and a bunch of other bells and whistles.
This was my first time flying on a 787, and I’d say the experience was… decent.
One of the first things I noticed when I boarded the plane was the larger windows.
I was not in a window seat so I couldn’t take full advantage of the windows, but they were noticeably larger. In fact, it was the windows that first clued me in that I was actually on a 787 (I obviously didn’t study my ticket very closely).
The downside of bigger windows is that they let in a lot more light, and the window shades on the 787 are wholly inadequate.
In the pictures above, the darker windows are facing away from the sun, while the lighter windows are facing toward it. These windows all had their shades completely drawn.
The problem is that instead of a regular plastic shade that you pull down, the 787 has a high tech window dimming thing. You turn a knob, and slowly the window glass gets bluer and bluer. It’s really cool to see.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually block out the sun; during much of my flight the sun was shinning directly into the window and hitting me in the eyes, and unlike an older plane there wasn’t much I could do about it. So, while the window dimming thing looks cool, I would have prefered to have a lower tech option that worked better.
On the other hand, the blue and purple windows did make it feel kind of like the plane was underwater, which was a weird but not unpleasant feeling.
Many of the other bells and whistles didn’t make a huge impression on me. I noticed the LED lights, for example, but I’ve seen other planes that have colored lighting and it always just seems…fine.
The storage space may have been larger, but I was one of the first people to board so it was hard to gauge.
One weird thing that the plane did have, and which I suspect is unique to Norwegian Air, is framed artwork:
Probably the best thing I can say about the 787 was that at the end of the flight I didn’t feel gross and kind of sick. Lately, on many long distance flights, I’ve felt kind of horrible by the end. I don’t know if it’s motion sickness, something psychological, or what. But it has happened repeatedly on flights that are longer than 7 or 8 hours.
This time I didn’t feel that at all. Though I was tired (because the inadequate window shades made it hard to sleep), I otherwise felt fine. If I had to guess, I’d bet this was due at least in part to the more pleasant cabin pressure, the cleaner air, and the technologies that are designed to smooth out the ride and reduce noise.
Ultimately I liked the 787. Not feeling sick at the end of the flight was a great thing, and while everything wasn’t perfect, I wouldn’t mind being on one of these planes again in the near future.
— Jim Dalrymple II