From the outset, Boeing Co. has touted its 787 Dreamliner as an innovative passenger jet equipped to usher in a new age in air travel. Now the traveling public is getting a peek inside.
All Nippon Airways, Japan's largest carrier, which is set to get the first of these jets late this summer, offered an early glimpse of what the interior of these $200-million planes might look like for international customers.
Get ready for wide seats in business class that recline into beds, touch-panel LCD screens that offer movies, videos and gaming, and roomy bathrooms that will include a bidet-toilet.
"We want passengers to see the difference of quality and comfort as soon as they board the aircraft," said Satoshi Fujiki, a senior vice president for the carrier's Americas division. "This is a game-changing aircraft."
The new amenities were highlighted by All Nippon in photographs and exhibits on display Wednesday at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, France. The planes are still under construction at Boeing's sprawling plant in Everett, Wash., where they are undergoing final assembly.
The look hearkens back to when Boeing's 747 jumbo jet first took to the skies in the early 1970s for Pan American World Airways Incorporated. Before the 747, traveling on a plane felt like flying in a cramped metal tube.
It wasn't until Pan Am began offering movies, elegant meals and even piano bars that other airlines saw the appeal of luxury travel.
All Nippon wanted a similar effect when designing its interiors for the 787 Dreamliner, Fujiki said. "Being the launch customer is prestigious. It's important to impress."
The new jet is smaller than the existing 747, holding 210 to 290 passengers, and its top speed is 593 mph. But the bigger changes are inside the cabin. The new 787 interior design is aimed at addressing common complaints among air travelers such as the need for more legroom, more comfort and better air quality.
In the renovated economy cabin, All Nippon is offering passengers in-flight entertainment on a seat-back LCD touch screen, a plug-in port for laptops and USBs and an iPod jack on long-haul routes. Business-class passengers on international flights will have aisle access from every seat and full flat beds, along with 17-inch touch-panel LCD screens.
"People remember the golden age of travel where they'd find piano bars on a plane," said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with Teal Group Corp. "I don't know if we're going back there, but better amenities and service will attract the premier passengers, which is key to long-haul carriers."
Passengers in every class will experience more room, improved air quality, more natural light from the outside thanks to 19-inch windows and higher humidity. The plane has bigger, drop-down overhead luggage bins, and the larger windows can adjust the light coming into the cabin with the touch of button, rather than by raising a solid window shade.
The Dreamliner doesn't have traditional white fluorescent lights, instead opting for soft "blue-sky" lighting. And Boeing made the 787 with "vaulted" 8-foot ceilings and 17-foot-wide cabins, which is more spacious than previous twin-aisle planes.
"If you've ever flown on a long-haul flight, you know how important comfort and amenities can be," said Kathleen Sedlmayr, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Business Travel Assn. "Especially if you fly all day and go to a business meeting shortly after landing."
She added that the economy seating is "the real star" of the plane, with extra legroom and seats that recline by sliding forward and "not into the lap of the person behind you."
Boeing is nearly two years into flight testing a fleet of six Dreamliners to earn the Federal Aviation Administration's official certification before the jets can be delivered to airlines. It is three years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.
Chicago-based Boeing has had a series of problems with getting the plane on schedule, including faulty parts from suppliers, a labor strike and design flaws. The design has proved difficult because it is the first large passenger jet to have more than half its structure made of a high-tech blend of lightweight composite material instead of aluminum. The new material is more durable and less prone to corrosion.
Boeing has promised airlines that the use of composites and a newly developed engine will result in a plane that burns 20% less fuel than jetliners of a similar size. Buyers worldwide, enticed by promises of the most advanced, fuel-stingy passenger jet ever made, have ordered 835 of the jets. It's up to carriers to decide what the interior configuration will look like.
All Nippon has ordered 55 Dreamliners for domestic and international routes. The first 787 aircraft is due to be delivered in August or September.
The carrier has two daily flights out of Los Angeles International Airport.
Each flight — one to Narita International Airport and one to Haneda Airport, both in Tokyo — uses a Boeing 777. But Fujiki said the 787 "most likely" would replace them. Fares won't be higher or lower depending on the aircraft, the company said.
The first flight schedules for the 787 and routes have not been announced, but Fujiki said All Nippon probably would be flying 787s a month after delivery. For now, travelers interested in seeing All Nippon's plans for the Dreamliner can visit the company's website at http://www.ana.co.jp/promotion/b787/en/.
When the jets do come in, All Nippon said it would give its first two 787s a special blue-and-white paint job with the numbers 787 in bold, large type at the front of the aircraft to signify that they are the first in the world. The paint job, called "livery," was also unveiled Wednesday at the Paris Air Show.
"We are eager to begin with the 787," Fujiki said. "This is a new horizon for aviation and our company."
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