Don’t go looking for the first-class cabin in Boeing’s newly-minted 787 Dreamliner – the company says that business class now takes pride of place at the pointy end of the plane.
Even the three-class ‘stretch limo’ 787-9 model, which is a longer version of the 787-8 which makes its debut today with Japan airline ANA, is more likely to have business, premium economy and economy sections than a high-luxe first class cabin.
“We’re seeing many airlines starting to reduce their full-blown first class offering, mainly because business class is beyond what first class used to be” observes Tom Galantowicz, Boeing’s Director of 787 Interiors.
Today's business class seats are close to what first class used to be, Boeing says.
“The front end of the 787 cabin has first class features, and business class is where the better airlines spend money because passengers are willing to pay for it” Galantowicz explains.
“So there’s (increasingly) a big gap between business class and economy class. Airlines are looking at an intermedia product to fill that gap, which is why we're seeing wide interest by airlines in premium economy.”
“25 years ago, business class was the gap-filler between first and economy, and if you look at a lot of premium economy product they literally mirror what we saw in business class 25 years ago.”
Things get tighter towards the back of the bus, with economy cabin “far and away being nine abreast seating”, although the first commercial Dreamliner sold to ANA seats eight across in economy.
This version of Weber's economy seats comes with video screens running the 787's Android-based in-flight entertainment system.
Airlines ordering the 787 must also choose their economy seat from Boeing’s ‘catalogue’ of approved seat designs from a handful of manufacturers, although they can specify their own seats for the premium economy and business class cabins (or pick one of the ‘premium’ products from the same seat companies).
It's not quite Ikea, but Boeing's showroom of pre-approved seat designs makes it easy for airlines to mix-and-match their Dreamliner's cabin design based on models from several seat manufacturers.
Qantas is still to decide if its own Dreamliners, the first of which will arrive in 2015-16 (following an initial Dreamliner shipment to low-cost sibling Jetstar starting 2013), will sport a third-generation Marc Newson Skybed design or if it will go catalogue shopping from Boeing's pre-approved 787 suppliers.
"You tend to shop off the catalogue for the rest of the aircraft but Boeing allows flexibility around the premium cabins" Lyell Strambi, Qantas Group Executive for Operations, told Australian Business Traveller. That will be a big decision for us to make closer to the time, on what will be the ultimate configuration for this plane and how many seats we have in each class."
Also in AusBT's Boeing 787 Dreamliner coverage:
- Photos: inside the Boeing 787's funky crew rest 'loft'
- Exclusive photo tour: inside ANA's new Boeing 787 Dreamliner
- Why business travellers will love the Boeing 787 Dreamliner
- Flying in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner: first real-life video
- Photos & video: Inside the first ANA Boeing 787 Dreamliner
- Boeing chooses Android for 787 Dreamliner's entertainment system
- Qantas does the 787 shuffle
- United aims for first Boeing 787 Dreamliner flights by mid-2012