One week ago yesterday, I flew on United’s inaugural Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight from Houston to Chicago.
The excitement following the pre-departure festivities at gate E5 in Houston culminated with very crowded boarding lanes for flight 1116 bound for Chicago.
I was among the first dozen or so to make it onboard and each passenger was greeted at their seat with a “Proud to fly the 787 Dreamliner” folder. It contained an inaugural flight certificate, 787 infographic card and an invitation to share pics and video with United’s social media team.
I was seated in 4A for this historic inaugural and my seatmate was to originally be Bruce (NonRevAdventure.com), but he fell victim to a mysterious and non-self-initiated seat change. I was very curious to find out who the “seat poacher” ended up being.
I settled in as boarding continued, lightened my electronic window shade that took quite a long time (all were darkened upon boarding) and snapped a couple of pics.
The flight attendants did an amazing job ushering everyone onboard and directing them to the appropriate aisle to walk down. Virtually everyone was taking pictures or video as they boarded. It would be a while before the seat poacher appeared, but he eventually did.
Mr. Hxxxxxx sat down in 4B and didn’t seem all that enthusiastic about the occasion. Hmm. He kept to himself as I was busy investigating my surroundings and occasionally standing up to snap additional photos and chat with people I knew. He was, however, gracious enough to honor my request for a picture of me in 4A.
The seat itself is your standard Continental BusinessFirst seat, which I find infinitely more comfortable and spacious than pre-merger United’s lie-flat offering. As boarding continued, people were a flurry around the cabin mingling and sharing their enthusiasm.
It was an exciting start to a memorable flight. We pushed back on-time amongst a throng of United employees watching from the tarmac. Here’s the video showing our departure, including the takeoff and champagne (or cider) toast by Jeff Smisek once we were in-flight.
Once the seat belt sign came off (and even before), many people were filing up and down the aisles filming the momentous occasion. Television crews and other media outlets were occupying Jeff Smisek’s time post-toast. Meanwhile, I took a closer look at the seat and my surroundings, including the fan-like overhead air nozzles.
Prior to breakfast being served in BusinessFirst, I headed to the nearby lavatory just forward of door two. It’s an incredibly spacious handicap-accessible lav with an inward opening door that took me by surprise. The touchless flush and sink features were fantastic. Now, if Boeing could just come up with a mechanism to avoid having to lift the seat/lid…
Back at my seat, Mr. Hxxxxxx sat there unenthusiastically as he had from the beginning watching the IFE. My curiosity was peaked as to who he was exactly and I was fascinated that he kept such a stoic and thoughtless presence about himself. Oh well. Not everyone is an aviation enthusiast.
Breakfast arrived and I was incredibly unimpressed. I thought United always served a choice of an omelet or cereal dish, but maybe that’s just on my constant mid-con or greater mileage flying. This was a ham muffin with egg, as well as fruit, yogurt and either a croissant or cinnamon roll. Ehh.
After eating, I was rarely in my seat. Everyone (except 4B) was milling about, chatting away, taking pictures and simply standing in the aisles sharing their excitement. It was a fantastic experience and it came to an end far too quickly.
Before I knew it, we were descending for our approach into Chicago. Settling back into my seat, I brought my video camera out again and… (sorry FAA)… filmed the approach. You’ll see that in the next installment.
The in-flight crew on this inaugural were simply fantastic. They were consummate professionals in handling the occasion while at the same time equally enthralled by the experience. Kudos to them!
Much more is to follow, including my overall impression (pluses and minuses) of the 787.
Up next: Chicago Arrival Celebration