United Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner Inaugural: UA Flight 1209 IAH to LAX

Boarding for my third and final leg on inaugural day was a more civilized affair. While there were many passengers standing around gate C14, no one was crowding the lanes.

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United Dreamliner Inaugural: Chicago Arrival Celebration

United Dreamliner Inaugural: UA Flight 1510 ORD to IAH

United Dreamliner Inaugural: UA Flight 1209 IAH to LAX

a sign with a digital screena group of men in an airportThis time I was seated in the forward BusinessFirst cabin in the middle section, aisle seat 2D. I forgot that non-bulkhead seats have the very small footwell – stick to row 1 or 4 if you want a larger footwell.

a group of people sitting in an airplanea tv on a wall Everyone in the forward cabin was uber enthusiastic, so this flight felt like another inaugural. There were a mix of United employees, Flyertalkers, bloggers and other #avgeeks in the BusinessFirst cabin (and maybe one or two “regular†people, but they were equally keen on the aircraft). The fresh batch of flight attendants, however, didn’t seem all that excited and carried themselves as if it were any ol’ flight.

We pushed back on-time and were airborne within minutes. I do quite love the Sky Interior and took particular notice of it on this flight.

a ceiling with lights and a signa screen on the back of an airplaneCheck out the varying degrees of window darkness in the following two pics. Row 1 has their “shades†fully open in the first pic while row 2’s shades are partially closed. And the second shows a fully darkened row 1 and partially darkened row 2. The jury is still out for me whether the fully darkened shades will be completely effective on a long-haul flight overseas when the sun rises before the cabin does.

a person sitting in an airplane with a pair of monitorsa woman sitting in an airplaneDinner onboard was a choice between chicken cacciatore or pasta – I went with the former.

a plate of food on a tableAfter dinner, literally everyone was up and about either chatting or getting an airborne tour of the pilot rest area. My thoughts on the inflight crew being “meh†changed ever so slightly because of their willingness to let us up for a peek.

a row of seats on an airplanean airplane wing and the skya person standing on the stairs of a planea room with a bed and pillowsBack at my seat, I noticed the scuff marks (not from me!) on the seat shell in front of me for the first time… this poor bird is already getting banged up. Hopefully a little cleaner will polish those right off.

a close-up of a white cylinder Both the excitement and length of the day were getting to me at this point, so I reclined back and dozed off until nearly landing.

a sign on a wallAnd finally, here are my random impressions and comments.

  • It’s a noticeably quieter aircraft.
  • As I mentioned above, for the larger footwells in BusinessFirst, go for the bulkhead seats in row 1 or 4.
  • The bar area in the forward BusinessFirst cabin is aesthetically appealing to see while seated, but I would have placed it behind row 3 thereby shifting the center section of seats a bit further away from the lavatory doors. All of the aisle seats in row 3 (particularly the center section) would get a yellow SeatGuru rating from me.
  • Since the pilot rest area is above row 1, there is no overhead bin storage in the center section. And row 2 (center) only has a half-bin on each side (if that).
  • The inward opening lavatory doors don’t operate smoothly (and I don’t think it was just me).
  • Will the darkening windows be fully effective when the sun rises and the entire cabin is sleeping?
  • Row 16 has a fantastic amount of legroom along the windowside bulkheads – the center section of row 16 appears to have slightly less room.
  • I think United missed the boat in not putting a window in the lavatories a la ANA’s 787s.
  • I had no sense of a lower cabin pressure or higher humidity setting – perhaps I will on a long-haul flight.

Have you flown United’s Dreamliner yet? What are some of your impressions?

Related posts:

United 787 Inaugural: Chicago to Houston

United 787 Inaugural: Houston to Chicago

United 787 Inaugural: Pre-Departure Festivities


  1. From the looks of the Pilot Rest area. I’ll take that for a long haul flight. I could definately be comfortable up there.


  2. The biggest thing I noted about the 787 was how quiet it was, up in 3B, the only noise I heard was the aerodynamic drag, it was as though we were in a glider going 600mph at 38K feet,

  3. As a Continental 787 pilot I appreciated your fair article. I too agree that we should have put windows in the lav’s. There was also an additional security feature that came with the aircraft that my company paid extra to have removed. Airline management – go figure.

  4. I’m a long time Boeing fanboy and have followed the 787 since it was first announced. In May 2012 flew to Japan just so I could sample ANA 787’s. From the moment I entered door 2 on ANA, I was impressed. The beautiful ceiling feature made it clear this was going to be a new experience. I usually fly economy, and I found ANA’s 2-4-2 (8 across) economy seats to be comfortable. After assessing the new tech goodies, I appreciated ANA’s comfortable economy seats.

    Jump to my first UA 787 flight LAX-IAH. Sorry, but here’s a cold water reality check. Once the “gee whiz” of this new airplane has passed, passenger seat comfort is most important, and will be crucial on long haul flights. All the tech stuff is cool, but if the seat is uncomfortable, that’s the lasting impression. Airlines are counting on impressing passengers with the high tech stuff, while saving fuel (a good thing) and jam packing passengers.

    Boarding UA’s 787 was a disappointment. United put a galley where none was intended, decimating the WOW factor of the covered up ceiling feature. The dark blue UA interior was dull, drab, uninviting. The cabin looked and felt jam packed with 3-3-3 (9 across) economy seating.

    The flight from LAX to Houston was acceptable even though my window seat was narrow. I found it odd that the window passenger’s a/c power outlet is under the middle seat, intruding on the middle passengers’s legroom. The aisles are narrow. I unintentionally bumped into several aisle seat passengers on my walk back to the lavatory (which is a bright spot…nice lav, United).

    My return flight to LAX was the most uncomfortable flight I’ve been on in over 40 years of flying, a huge disappointment. My worst fears came to pass when a large teenage boy sat in the middle seat while I was again at a window. He was shoehorned into his narrow seat and his elbows and shoulders in my space and the fellow on the other side. I sat arms tightly crossed the entire flight. The low angle sun was annoying even with my window fully dimmed. Eye masks will be necessary for sleep since there are no conventional window shades. I couldn’t wait for this flight to end.

    These negative impressions were NOT what I hoped for on my first United 787 experience.

    I had previously booked a UA 787 long haul from LAX-NRT in April. After the bad experience on my 3 hour Houston trip, I’m dreading the long haul now. At least I’m in 16K at the front of E+ so I can get up and walk around if I’m hemmed in by a large passenger in the middle seat. Also, the packed economy cabin will be behind me, out of sight. The consolation will be flying the next leg on a Thai Airways A380 to Bangkok.

    In spite of the good things the 787 has to offer, after the new airplane thing wears off, I won’t be surprised if I’m not the only economy flyer to avoid 787’s with 3-3-3 seating. The fuselage is simply not wide enough to cram in 9 seats per row in spite of most airlines configuring their 787’s that way. I’ll take the wider wide body of a 777, 747, A380 any day, especially for a long flight.

    After so many years of anticipating this new airplane, I’m disappointed. I hope to have a more favorable impression of UA’s 787 after my April LAX-NRT flight.

    Here’s a video I made, showing the good and the bad. As the saying goes “a picture says a thousand words.”

    • @Kris: Thanks for your detailed feedback! I have to agree the power outlet for the window seat was indeed awkward for the middle seat occupant, but I found the coach seats pretty comfortable. 16A/K will also definitely be my seat of choice when in economy on United’s 787. Like you, I’m still a fan of the 777s and 747s. Will check out your video now…

  5. @Darren, my coach seat was comfortable enough on one of the legs of my roundtrip when a slender lady was in the middle seat. I noticed my E+ seat was considerably narrower than my ANA 787 seat with the 2-4-2 configuration, but seemed acceptable. My worst fears were realized on the other leg of my trip when a large teenager was in the middle seat. My video shows the problem clearly. He was large but not obese. He was tightly squeezed into his seat, and his elbows and shoulders were very much in my space and the fellow on his right side. I’m a cozy guy, but not THAT cozy.

    Much to my disappointment, that flight was the worst flying experience in over 40 years of air travel. I was hoping for a UA 787 home run, but it wasn’t meant to be. I guess the airlines are assuming passengers will love the good things a 787 has to offer and will accept uncomfortably tight seats.

    My friends at Spirt AeroSystems in Wichita are looking forward to my positive reviews, since they build the forward section of the 787. I’m afraid they’ll be disappointed with my honest opinion.

    After all these years, never thought this would be an airplane I’d avoid. Now I’m more curious than ever to see the A350 XWB. As I discovered wider fuselage is a good thing. But let’s see how the airlines pack the A350 economy cabin. Probably 3-4-3, sigh…

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