I usually get just one big international trip every year. So it seems too obvious to name my recent trip to Vietnam as my Best of 2013. I mean, that means my big trip would score the top spot every year.
Alright, then – if we go beyond the trip to Vietnam, what's my most-interesting travel-related tidbit of 2013?
Easy. This year, I took my first flight on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The first was back in July, a short domestic trip from Houston to Chicago. But I logged two more flights, both trans-Pacifics, as the curtain closed on 2013. The first was from Mineta San Jose International Airport to Narita International Airport outside Tokyo – that was also my first flight on All Nippon Airways, which Skytrax rates as a 5-star airline. Next, I flew from Shanghai Pudong International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport on a United 787 Dreamliner.
I'll review both flights in upcoming blog posts (NOTE: I am not an avgeek’s avgeek. So I won’t tell you what runway we took from, list the aircraft registration number or subject you to four photos of every meal/snack. That stuff just doesn’t interest me.). For now, let me focus on the 787 itself. Both airlines fly the 787-8 variant, which is the first launched. The 787-9 just made its first flight, so it's not yet in service.
The ANA 787 holds fewer than 200 people seated eight across in the economy cabin. The United seems packed tighter at nine abreast.
Regardless of their configuration differences, each Dreamliner had some common features that make this a nice aircraft for a journey across continents.
You'll notice amenities like on-demand entertainment at every seat. But here's the really nice part – you can charge up your electronic gadgets with a USB port at every seat. That's terrific convenience. The cabin is spacious, with lots of headroom for a tall guy like me.
There are some things that are harder to measure, like the higher air pressure and the higher humidity. Both factors are difficult to measure scientifically. And how do you account for an aviation nerd skewing his observations because he's pumped to fly the latest and greatest in commercial aviation? You don't.
Still, I think the complete package of the 787 Dreamliner makes it a better experience for all passengers. I hope much of what Boeing learned from the Dreamliner winds up in the 777X.
Here's a suggestion I'll pass along: If Boeing opts against using traditional window shades and uses the Dreamliner-style dimming windows, I hope its engineers can get the window to shift to fully opaque. If they don't, each of them deserves to fly up against the window facing the sun for the rest of their lives. Seriously.
Still, I’m very happy I had the chance to fly on it three times. The 777 was in service for more than 10 years before I got my first flight, and I didn’t want to wait that long or a Dreamliner ride. Mission accomplished!
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