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United Announces New Dreamliner Schedule

United announced the initial routes for its much-delayed and long-awaited 787 Dreamliners.

United announced it will fly the new 787 Dreamliner on a few domestic routes starting November 4, but only temporarily. The routes will be out-and-back links from Houston to Chicago/O'Hare, Cleveland, Denver, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, and Washington/Dulles. Apparently, United has decided to fly these planes around to generate some experience while it gets set up for long-term international routes.

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The international routes are as follows: Houston to Amsterdam starting December 4, Los Angeles to Tokyo/Narita starting January 3, Houston to Lagos starting January 7, Houston to London/Heathrow starting February 4, Los Angeles to Shanghai starting March 30, and Denver to Tokyo/Narita starting March 31.

The Dreamliner features some important advantages over older jets: improved cabin pressurization (to an equivalent of 6,000 feet), higher humidity, the biggest windows on any current jets, and large baggage bins. Other differences, including mood lighting, are more hype than significant. Add to that the ability to fly very long routes with insufficient traffic to support larger planes, meaning travelers on those routes can avoid the hassles of hubbing.

But the new plane will be less of a dream than United would like you to think. Here's why:

  • Although United's business class will offer the usual lavish cabin service, the seats are not flat bed, as they are on United's 747s and 777s.
  • Economy travelers will find, to their dismay, that United decided to take the "bad guy" rather than the "good guy" approach to seating in the back of the plane. It opted for ultra-narrow 737-width seats at nine abreast rather than the much more comfortable eight abreast on other airlines.

Economy travelers who want "good guy" eight abreast economy seats in 787s will have to stick with ANA flying Seattle to Tokyo starting October 1 and San Jose to Tokyo starting January 11; and Japan Airlines is already flying to Tokyo from Boston and San Diego starting in December. So far, no other airlines have announced 787 service to the U.S., and no domestic airline other than United has any 787s on order.

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