First review of the new British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner

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It is now three weeks since the first British Airways Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner started commercial service between Heathrow and Delhi.

This is the longer version of the 787-8 and, unlike the smaller aircraft, features First Class.  BA has also ordered the forthcoming 787-10 series which will be even larger.

I am due to fly one of these next Easter.  However, since it would be a shame to wait that long for a review, I was pleased when HFP reader Alan sent me his thoughts on one of the first flights as well as some photographs.  As usual, I have edited his article and any mistakes are probably mine.

“Flying to New Delhi on 28 October with British Airways, I discovered from the seating plan that it would be Day 3 of BA’s first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner service.

This was the first commercial flight of our aircraft.   Everything was squeaky clean and with that unusual new carpet smell.  The new fuel efficient engines also make the Dreamliner QUIETER.  Bliss.  The cabin altitude equivalent is considerably lower than a Boeing 747 and more comfortable for passengers.

The 787-9 boasts the new First pods (just eight) with more privacy than the earlier design, iPhone dock, large screen IFE and improved space and storage. First was full and passengers I spoke to after landing at Delhi were impressed. Good news for British Airways

(Raffles edit: potentially bad news for Avios collectors, since the new eight-seat First cabin is replacing the 14-seat 777 version on many routes.  This will make reward seats harder to find.)

This is the new First seat:

British Airways 787-9 First Class

In Club World, nothing discernible has changed. On the 787-9, the 42 Club seats are split into two cabins: the front cabin is best, with just two rows of seats in a 2-3-2 configuration facing each other as usual. I was at the front in 6A. Aft of the galley is a larger 4-row Club cabin followed by World Traveller Plus (32) and 127 in World Traveller.

The crew were excellent.  The had originally trained on the 787-8 so had little time to sort themselves out with the new layout before boarding passengers. It’s not a crew friendly aircraft, apparently, due mostly to restricted space.

BA had a chance to rework their Club World offer on these new aircraft, but we still have such irritating features as:

– passengers in window seats have no direct aisle access, so clamber over sleeping passengers to get out
– hard armrests
– nail breaking table release mechanism
– shoulder dislocating reading light adjustment
– not enough storage space (just a drawer below the table

What is wrong with a herringbone layout used by other airlines?

Here is a photograph of the Club World front cabin:

British Airways 787-9 Club World business class

On the plus side, the in flight entertainment is much improved with a better screen and easier selection of content. I didn’t bother with the seat-to-seat “chat” facility but it could be fun (call 1A in First?)

Window blinds are replaced with ingenious touch buttons that “dim” the new, larger windows. “Mood” cabin lighting is also improved, though the bright BA logo blazes through the night on the front wall!

The meal service was spirited and fun with an enthusiastic crew. But on an 8hr+ night flight it still took 3 hours to complete the meal service and dim the lights. Galley issues?

What happened to the Club Kitchen? It’s now reduced to a sad pile of confectionery and crisp packets and a few bananas. No chilled sandwiches or salads (fruit or otherwise), let alone an ice cream! Someone slashed the budget. Shame.

(Raffled edit: there was ice-cream on our 777 flight from Dubai recently as my kids ate it!)

Six of the Club World seats wouldn’t recline properly (it’s brand new, Boeing!) so the cabin services director and crew were crawling around on the floor with a torch and tools to get them working. Not totally successfully, I heard. Mine worked perfectly.

We left and arrived on time. I still prefer upstairs on a 747, to be honest: 64A/K is the place to be!”

Thanks Alan.  You can learn more about the British Airways 787-9 fleet on this special page.

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  1. I have always loved the ying yang style of BA Club World. Seated backwards is more fun and as I like looking out the window it has better views.

    Is the stepping over really so hard? It’s about 20 inches high, hardly a high jump. And do we all dislike our fellow humans so much that we want so much separation? Even from our own travelling companions?

    • You can get closer, to your fellow travellers, at the back! 🙂

    • I admit, with kids and potentially for a couple, the yin yang has some benefits in terms of being able to see another person (and, for kids, trapping them in the middle pair as there is no direct aisle access).

      Unfortunately, these exact same features annoy other people who are travelling alone.

    • This design is 15 or 16 years old now. Other airlines have moved on and improved on this. It’s disappointing that BA fits it in brand new aircraft.

    • 20 inches isn’t much if you’re fit and healthy. Much more of an issue if you have any kind of mobility issues. For most people, it’s well above knee height.

    • It’s such an awful design. You only have to fly Qatar or even the newer AA planes to see how lame the BA setup is.

  2. Eek not so good on the day malfunction front, although sounds like the IFE at least worked OK!

    Disappointing re Club Kitchen, used to be pretty decent.

    Personally I’ve no issues with the yin-yang design, but mainly because I like the backwards-facing view from the window seats (esp during takeoff) and don’t find it that much of a hassle getting out of them.

    (NB I’m a different Alan to the one in the review, I’m not just commenting on my own article! :D)

  3. You hit the nail on the head – they had a chance to rework the Club World Offer but did very little.

    We flew back from JNB last month in an A380 with exactly the same seating layout and the flaws were just as you listed them. It may only be 20 inches to step over, but in the middle of the night, half asleep I’m afraid I woke up my fellow passenger at least twice.

    When you see what Qatar have done with the same space it makes you wonder whether BA have given up on being the world’s favourite airline.

    • Yes, if you’re a short arse like me it’s quite uncomfortable stepping over someone and you tend to struggle to do it without waking them. It’s especially awkward on night flights if you need a few loo trips, so although I would prefer to be by the window I now go for an aisle.

    • BA manage fit in many more seats in the same physical space they won’t be changing this layout for years, the new seats they designed lost too many seats to be taken forward.

  4. Hi
    Did you sit next to the window?
    The dimming window blocks light but not the heat.

  5. All the reviews I have seen so far of the 787-9 have focused on the new(er) First, nice to see something on CW. Just to point out that First on the old 777-200 came with 12 seats not 14 (or at least some of them, and despite what a seat map might say), 2 seats are lost to accommodate access to the crew rest area.

    In CW on the 787-9, in the smaller forward cabin seats 7J and 7K are being blocked off by BA, anyone know why? I have seats 6F and 6J booked on future flights in this cabin, which I consider to be the best of a bad bunch. I don’t think there is an actual seat which I would think as the ‘best seat’. That all said I have enjoyed BA CW and First, the crew have always been great, and I have always had a great sleep.

    Apparently, on overnight flights the CW kitchen isn’t as well stocked and they don’t include ice cream, which is a stupid move considering how restrictive they are with the desert or cheese option (pick one only!). However those little bags of popcorn are great.

    • Really hard to get 787 F seats LH, we are again on the 777 to HKG. And using avios on CX J to bali. We really want to use BA J but it is cramped compared to QR J. I know, I know, we have that transit in Doha. But those BA J flights often leave 02am and 03 am so you can and do have nights hang arounds in those far flung places or in the ME. Swings and roundabouts, think we will aim for a 241 F every second year, with a QR J ex EU as the other option. Also QR good for us non biz travellers who need to keep Silver. Just wish we didn’t have to disturb people by climbing over them. Agree it’s such a shame they didn’t at least do a 222 config. Just to have that feeling of a little more spaciousness in the cabin. Oh, we lot are spoiled!

      • Erico1875 says:

        We used to have 6 in a Hilman Imp, 2 trips needed to get to Butlins Ayr. 10 of us crammed into a 6 berth chalet for a week.
        CW is good enough for me.

        • Indeed. No complaints about my 20″. Should be enough for anybody unless you’re paying for more.

  6. DeltaCharlie says:

    I have flown the 787-9 twice now, both in First and find the new suites very nice, certainly these are a product improvement over the rest of the fleet.
    Did write a brief report for FT and as stated there the new coat or jacket locker is not great for anything longer than a blazer or suit jacket. Crew will still stow some long coats on request but they now have very little room. Also the IFE controller will not be to everybody’s liking, it is smaller than an iPhone and certainly less responsive to touch commands.
    Apart from these little issues it is a great product in my opinion, although I must admit I do not fly First on other airlines so have no real comparison to competitors.

    Nearly forgot, the middle seats are now far better for couples. Those that wish to talk anyway!

    Raffles: If you are interested, I do have some photos that I am happy to send over if you wished to add them.

  7. I think
    BA CW is better for young families .
    For solo travellers it
    Be quite irritating

  8. I know BA are promoting, amongst other improvements, the new IFE controller – this is only available in First and to put some perspective on it, Emirates economy (!) have had a separate little touch screen controller for years from which you can control the main screen as well as use the controller as a second screen.

  9. Aspirational Flyer says:

    I have just come off the new BA 787-900 in the last three hours or so on a flight from Abu Dhabi. Great new aircraft and a good flight (despite the 2:45am departure!). I was travelling in WTP and to was only half full with the seat next to me empty – one of my best experiences flying longhaul on BA (including in Club World!)

  10. planeflyer says:

    I flew MCT-AUH-LHR last week in WT and thought the experience was pretty good. The IFE was really excellent, especially compared to the 747. The seating I flet was ok. Not as good as the A380 or 77W, but better than the 747. I’ve not flown the 787-8, so can’t compare that.

  11. Anthony Dunn says:

    The Club Kitchen went west (another “customer-related service improvement…”!? Err not) at least a couple of years ago. Yet another manifestation of the bean-counting approach to the hard product at BA/IAG.

    BA will eventually get around to updating the ting-yang arrangement and It’s my understanding that the new A350 will see this rolled out. Altogether odd when you might have thought that BA would wish to implement this across all of their much trumpeted new aircraft entering into service.

    • It was fine on our A380 flight a couple of weeks ago, including ice cream!

      • Club kitchen was one of the things I was looking forward to on my first BA J flight. I was disappointed that it was basically a selection of funsize mars bars and small packets of nuts. I am flying AA J soon so am keen to see what their version of club kitchen is like (it looks much better).

  12. NOT having the herringbone layout as other airlines, is the reason why I prefer to fly WITH BA.
    If you travel alone, the herringbone layout is maybe the better choice.
    But I never travel alone and I like to see and have a conversation with my partner, which is quite impossible with a herringbone layout…

  13. AndyGWP says:

    Off Topic:

    The wife received an email earlier today from BA Executive Club, informing her of the Tesco Clubcard conversion 20% bonus 🙂

    “Now, you can get away even sooner, with 20% bonus Avios for every £10 in Tesco Clubcard vouchers you exchange before midnight 30 November 2015. This means that instead of 2,400 Avios for every £10, you’ll enjoy 2,880 Avios to spend on your next British Airways flight.

    Exchange your Tesco Clubcard points automatically? You’ll still receive 2,880 Avios for every 1,000 Clubcard points exchanged.

    So, whether you fancy catching some winter sun, or enjoying a white Christmas on the slopes, your grocery shop could help take you there.”

  14. OT: I have just received the “email” from BAEC under my daughters account for the 20% bonus – this email has a link to Tesco clubcard page. Just hope we all still get the bonus even though we have already converted!!!

    • Peter K says:

      I’ve got it today as well. I think however that if enough people complain then it will be paid! How many people look at the small terms and conditions accessed by a separate link. Certainly not many I would have thought, compared to those who see the big 20% extra on the main page. HfP readers are the minority in this sort of thing.

  15. James67 says:

    Thanks to Alan for the review. While an aircraft of this size and efficiency seems to be paying off for development of regional secondary routes, I’m not quite comfortable with the possibility that this and similar aircraft may come to dominate the supposedly overcrowded and full to capacity heathrow, in particular on BA for which it is the home airport and controls most of the slots. Why build a third runway with all its environmental and social conseauenies only to see airlines phase out 300+ seat aircraft in favour of 209 seat aircraft? Presumably the environmental footprint per passenger of doing so may also be greater than for larger aircraft despite the increased efficiency of the new planes? I read (but don’t know whether it is true or not) that the a380 has both the smallest operating cost and smallest environmental footprint of any aircraft even with a load of just 80%. Presumably smaller aircraft with less seats also means less competition, less choice and higher fares, and less redemption seats as Raffles points out in the review. It seems odd to me that on a route that they once likely operated with 744s, BA is now content to operate a 209 seat aircraft, particularly given it’s a huge country with a rapidly growing population and has a very sizable community here in the UK. LH, EY, EK and I believe SQ are all already or planning to run a380s to India, so why can’t BA? Heathrow seems to be top choice for other airlines to operate their a380s: i jut cannot imagine why BA with the prime opportunity at the airport is going the opposite direction, particularly given the fact they themselves had one of the largest fleets of 747s.

    • Putting the various pieces together I suspect the plan is to replace 747s on some routes with 3 class 777-200ERs (~270 seats), where an F cabin doesn’t justify itself financially and it doesn’t warrant the Y capacity of the mid-J (~330 seat) 747s. In turn we can then expect to see 787-9s replacing 4 class 777-200(ER)s as is the case on the Delhi, Abu Dhabi and Austin routes with a small drop in F and J capacity.

      A large fleet of A380s to compare with the 747 fleet at its peak was never on the cards. They work well on some routes but in many cases they are simply far too big. It’s not in BAs interests to flood the market with cheap seats, fly with a significant proportion of seats unsold, or reduce frequencies to key business destinations such as New York. In addition many airports can’t accommodate them. Only 8 US airports currently do – BA already flies them to half of those.

      • The other issue with the 388 is cargo capacity. More frequent single decker aircraft increase the overall cargo capacity and give more flexibility to run with lower pax yields. Unless we are some kind of A380 combi (unlikely due to the safety risk)?

      • The problem with the A380 is not only can the airport handle it, but what are the diversion alternatives. The A380 has to carry a lot of fuel if it needs to divert, that automatically cancels out a lot of routes it can fly and be commercially successful.

        We now go to KEF in Iceland, the alternate of the weather is bad or technical issue is Glasgow!

        • True. When I was with SAS earlier in the year and we were discussing how they select new routes, part of the issue is diversionary airports. There are places where, technically, their planes can reach from Scandinavia with a full tank but (taking into account the maximum possible fuel burn required assuming the least advantageous weather conditions en route) they would not have enough fuel to reach a suitable alternative airport if necessary.

          There are also airports where you can land a plane but from where the same plane cannot take off, because you need more runway length on departure. Do you want to take the risk of finding your very expensive A380 stranded on a runway from which it cannot depart?!

  16. The club kitchen is exactly the same layout as the 787-8? There is still the fridge!

  17. OT, but I’ve got my email about the 20% Clubcard conversion bonus.

    • AndyGWP says:

      my wife also got it, but I haven’t… I’d already made the points transfer to my BAEC account…

      Does anyone know if I can legitimately transfer £100 to her BAEC account from Clubcard too?? (we share the clubcard account… she is an ‘additional’ card holder or whatever they call it, and I am main card holder.)

  18. OT completely. Just made BA Silver tonight on my DUB LHR HBO flight. Very exciting actually. Purser Robin was very kind, dropped me a couple bottles of champers to celebrate. Apologised he couldn’t upgrade me as his hands are now tied. BA have a heart, sort of! Told him he would get a mention!

  19. Club kitchen is being reduced because selfish people “stock up”, often a 747 is cleaned out within an hour of club kitchen opening! I’ve even had a passenger request a pot noodle from club kitchen for later when his main course was served

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