This week, Japan’s ANA (All Nippon Airways) announced that it will be the first airline to launch a new “stretch” version of the popular Boeing 787 Dreamliner on August 7. The new 787-9 is “stretched” 20 feet longer than the original 787-8, allowing for up to 40 additional passengers.
With this delivery, ANA will have 29 787s in its fleet, more than any other airline in the world.
ANA inaugurated the Dreamliner flights between San Jose and Tokyo Narita in January 2013 , but put the service on hold shortly thereafter due to the plane’s well-publicized battery issues. Thankfully, the SJC-NRT nonstops resumed on June 1 last year. And since then, the 787 has been enjoying a honeymoon stage in the US and around the world as passengers praise its big tinted windows, giant overhead bins, smooth ride and more humid cabins.
Among US carriers, only United currently flies the 787, but Boeing says that there are 160 Dreamliners now in operation around the world, and that sixty customers have ordered more than 1,000 of the fuel efficient, composite birds.
In case you haven’t had a chance to ride on one, here are some photo highlights of my ANA Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner flight between San Jose International and Tokyo-Narita last year.
>The windows on the 787 really are bigger (by 20%)– it’s the first thing you notice when stepping on the plane. Instead pulling shades up and down, those in window seats can adjust the tint them electronically– sort of like Transitions Lenses. The downside is that they never completely black out like you you get with a regular window shade.
>Lower pressure and higher humidity in the 787 cabin are detectable– for one thing, your eyes and lips don’t dry out as fast. I’m not sure how to describe the feeling other than to say that cabin air just felt softer. And I felt better when I got off the plane.
>The plane exudes spaciousness with higher ceilings and a wider fuselage– there just feels like there is more space, even in economy class. The extra-large business class section (46 seats) seems to take up half the plane. And I’ve never seen a larger tray table in all my years of flying. (See above and below.)
>In ANA’s business class, the BEST seats are odd numbered window seats, and even numbered center seats– check out the photo above and you will see how a center seat on this plane is like sitting at the helm of Starship Enterprise. If you can put up with the commotion around the galleys and lavatories, bulkhead seats are the best of the best seats on the plane in terms of personal space. See Seatguru for the 787′s cabin layout.
Related: TravelSkills editor Chris McGinnis recounts his unusual experience in Tokyo during the grounding of the Dreamliner in early 2013
>Inflight dining in business class blew me away– the food and drink menu is 24 pages long (!), well suited to both western and Japanese palates. (I went native and ordered off the Japanese menu…Oishii!)
>ANA’s 787-8 is relatively small plane: Only 158 passengers (46 business, 112 economy), which makes it the right size for smaller markets like San Jose-Tokyo. Compare that to a Boeing 747 which holds 350-400 passengers. End result? Boarding is fast and easy– it feels like a less crowded domestic flight.
>Finally, there’s a window in the lavatory– and the Toto toilet has a heated seat with sprayer– see above.
>ANA’s roundtrip coach fares between SJC and NRT are about $1,500… Business class fares are in the $4,000 range, pretty much the same as Tokyo fares out of SFO. ANA is a Star Alliance partner, which means opportunities for earning and burning Mileage Plus miles on these flights.
>Memorable: Flight attendants write sweet thank you notes to passengers.
So whaddya think? Have you flown on a B787 with ANA or other airline? Please leave your comments below!
Disclosure: ANA covered the cost of my trip to Tokyo.
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