BA Boeing 787 Dreamliner: Tech of new plane explored

The British Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner might not be as exciting as the new British Airways Airbus A380, but there is a stronger chance it's an aircraft in which you're likely to travel.

It will fly from Heathrow to Toronto from 1 September and to Newark from 1 October, and Pocket-lint was invited on board to check out some of its innovations, ahead of its inaugural passenger flight 

The cabin is centred around Club World (Business), World Traveller Plus (Premium economy), and World Traveller (Economy) with each passenger sharing much of the same technology throughout the plane.

One of the first things you'll notice is the removal of blinds from the large windows (the largest windows of any commerical aircraft) that run down the sides of the airplane.

Don't panic that such a move might mean not getting any sleep on the red-eye back from a party-fuelled weekend in New York, because Boeing has introduced a new technology that allows you to dim the windows electronically with five graduated settings. The window becomes a darker and darker blue, and amazingly still lets you see outside but without letting any sunlight in.

Other technological marvels enjoyed by all are the promise of a quieter cabin and colourful mood lighting that British Airways has preset to fit in with different moments of the flight, such as take-off or when food is being served.

During our tour, at the company's hangar at Heathrow, it was set to fairly standard everyday setting, but you can see the potential this has to offer in trying to make the cabin a much more cosy environment.

On the entertainment front, BA's in-flight entertainment system now supports MPEG4 footage. That geeky titbit means that it can compress movies and TV shows even more than before, getting more content on the system from which to chose. So much so that there will be over 1,600 hours of entertainnment available. Not bad for a 7 to 9 hour flight.

In real terms that's around 130 movies, 650 TV shows, 550 audio albums, and 225 radio shows. You'll also be able to talk to other passengers, in the same way you can on Virgin Atlantic flights.

Club World

There are 35 seats on the 787 Dreamliner dedicated to Club World, the highest class you can get on the aircraft as there is no First Class accommodation. Sporting new coloured seats, it's set up in a 2:3:2 configuration with BA's standard arrangement of passengers facing each other. That's great if you are flying together so you can chat easily, but still awkward if you are having to look at a complete stranger.

BA Business travellers will know all to well that uncomfortable moment where you have to pluck up enough courage to press the button on top of the privacy barrier to raise it, and to solve that problem, BA has now added a button at seat hight so you can play dumb as the divider starts rising, as if by magic.

If you want extra locker space, you can't beat that middle seat. The rear-facing middle seats offer additional interior storage space - eg, for a laptop/iPad - and extra flat surface for drinks and magazines.

They, and the window seats, also provide enhanced privacy for working and sleeping with aisle access in either direction.

The seats to avoid are the aisle seats: sitting in them feels like you've been dumped in the corridor.

Entertainment is provided by BA's fleet-wide entertainment system and Club World passengers get a 12.1-inch personal in-flight entertainment touchscreen with noise-cancelling headphones. They'll also get a UK/US/EU power socket, two USB sockets, and a Video RCA connection in order to use their own digital equipment to play back on the screen. Nice. 

World Traveller Plus

Here there are 25 seats, making it a nice small cabin. As with the Club seats up front, BA has worked hard to improve the seating for World Traveller Plus flyers, and for frequent flyers keen to know this stuff, it's the same seats as found on the 777-300 ER aircraft.

That means an experience more akin to Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy rather than an economy seat with a bit more space. You now get to see and tell the difference.

In real terms you get 20 per cent more legroom than World Traveller, with footrest, increased recline position, hammock headrest and cocktail table.

Entertainment is shown on a still large 10.6-inch in-flight entertainment touchscreen and you get noise-cancelling headphones to listen to it all. The seat also comes with power for a laptop and two USB sockets.

World Traveller

The economy cabin is where the most passengers are on the BA 787 Dreamliner, but that doesn't mean they are crammed in like cattle. Like the World Traveller Plus cabin, the seat has been taken from the 777-300 ER aircraft and that gives you a better more comfortable seat than on BA's older aircraft.

Here it is a 3:3:3 seat configuration and it works well.

You'll get an 8.9-inch screen on which to watch movies and power for charging gadgets, plus a USB socket to play back your own shows on the screen in the back of the seat in front of you.

British Airways has ordered 24 of the 787s, which it says will arrive over the next four years. The airline has also ordered 12 A380s and six additional 777-300ERs. Over the next 12 months, it will take delivery of the new aircraft at the rate of one a fortnight.