United Hopes to Improve Flying Experience With Dreamliner

The airliner is the first in the U.S. to fly the cheaper, more efficient jet.

ByABC News
November 20, 2012, 10:47 PM

Nov. 21, 2012 — -- It's the airplane designed to bring back some of the fun in flight.

Boeing's 787 Dreamliner is finally making its domestic debut this holiday season. It's the passenger jet with swooping wings and a fuselage made primarily of plastic.

"The airplane, in terms of what it's like to fly, is revolutionary," said Capt. Jim Starley, managing director of flight operations for United Airlines.

Boeing has sold more than 800 of the planes around the world, but United is the first U.S. airline to fly the Dreamliner. Service began this month.

"The feeling of space is enormous," said Jeff Smisek, United's CEO.

Airlines are buying the new planes because they're cheaper to fly and more efficient, but they're going to sell would-be passengers on feature comforts such as the air itself.

The Dreamliner's cabin has more oxygen and it's cleaner and less dry than current plane air. The jets also have large storage bins, which, Being says, can fit four suitcases.

Because the plane is made of plastic, it is more flexible so air pressure inside the plane can be kept higher. The maker says the improvement in air pressure leads to less jet lag, as well as less dry mouth and skin for passengers.

Blake Emery, the director of differentiation strategy for Boeing, said the Dreamliner offers "significant" changes from today's flying experience.

"The increase in humidity, the pressurization of the cabin, the additional filtration system we put in," Emery said. "It's a very different experience than today's airplanes."

The windows have also changed -- they are a third bigger on the new 787s.

"I can see the horizon from my seat," Larry Coughlin, director of 787 manufacturing for Boeing, said from his aisle seat.

The windows, Emery said, have added controls, with dimming features and tinting so that a passenger will "never lose connection with the outside."

The entrance was not left out of the redesign -- now larger to give passengers the feeling of spaciousness when stepping onboard.

A light show, integrated into the architecture of the cabin, was added on board with different colors for takeoff, cruising, and food. There is a palette of colors to create mood: blue lights for takeoff resembling the open sky and a warmer amber tone for meal service.

"So we go into the warm colors, like candlelight," said Mark Larson, the technical manager for the Dreamliner Gallery at Boeing.

On the flight deck, pilots say the 787 carries the next level of safety.

"It's absolutely a generational step," Starley said.

A security camera shows pilots who is outside the cockpit door. Advanced radar detects potential mid-air collisions miles away and warns the crew. A GPS system can land the Dreamliner on its own, in zero visibility.

Boeing says the plane is so advanced it is moving aviation to the next level -- more efficient and more comfortable than it has been.