Business travel: Boeing's 787 aims to raise bar in comfort

Tue Sep 27, 2011 7:07pm EDT
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By Peter Myers

LONDON (Reuters) - Dressed in specially designed All Nippon Airways livery, with a big, bold, blue "787" splashed at its fore, Boeing Co's Dreamliner will fly from its Seattle birthplace to Tokyo on Tuesday, and, just over a month later, begin active service for the Japanese carrier.

Loyal passengers of other 787-recipient airlines will have months, possibly years to kick their heels before experiencing the high-tech, $185-$218 million craft. Should they wait with bated breath for what Boeing 787 Chief Project Engineer Mike Sinnett has called: "The most technologically advanced commercial airplane in history?"

Marketed as a panacea to passenger discomfort, the Dreamliner's inauguration is, after three years of delivery delays, being closely monitored by the travel industry.

"Comfort and cost are concerns of the business traveler and the 787 will deliver extreme advancements in fuel efficiency and many traveler features that will improve the journey," said Michael Qualantone, senior vice president & general manager, American Express Global Business Travel.

Indeed, this twin-engine, bendy winged, widebody craft has raised the bar for fuel efficiency. Some 50 percent by weight of the 787 airframe is lightweight carbon-fiber composites that could, Boeing says, help reduce fuel costs by 20 percent.

Whether travelers will benefit from the lower fuel consumption will depend upon airlines' cost structures.

According to Blake Emery, Boeing's director, differentiation strategy, the composite airframe also allows a more comfortable cabin pressure (the equivalent of 6,000 feet "cabin altitude," instead of the common 8,000 feet). The air can also be recycled much more frequently than is possible in aluminum airframes, where the process shortens aircraft life.

Though rebutting the suggestion that closer-to-sea-level cabin pressure will alleviate jetlag, Emery told Reuters: "Our goal is for people to feel better because of an aircraft experience, rather than feel beat up."   Continued...

<p>All Nippon Airway (ANA) employee Yong Choi looks at the entertainment controller while seated in the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner to be delivered to the Japanese airline at Boeing's Everett factory August 6, 2011. REUTERS/Robert Sorbo</p>