I’ve just flown the Edsel of the skies: the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that I flew on LOT Airlines to get to Europe. I’ve been wanting to fly on one of these; that desire has now been forever extinguished.
The Dreamliner is a beautiful plane. It’s big and tall, with lots of bin storage; and it reportedly maintains a higher cabin pressure during flight, while means passengers will suffer less dehydration. Because of its large size, there is far less turbulence. And although the food was lousy, the LOT Airlines stewardesses wear little caps, which is a neat little throwback to the olden days of aviation.
In fact, everything about the plane was great except for one thing: LOT Airlines, like almost every airline, is flying the Dreamliner with a nine-across seat configuration which results in a seat width of 16.9 inches – just about the narrowest airline seat in the air. These planes were originally designed with the idea that they would have 8-across seating.
The trend towards super-narrow airline seats started a few years ago when some greedy airline decided to replace the 9-across, 2-5-2 seating on their 777 airplanes to 10-across, 3-4-3 seating. Seat width on these 777 airplanes decreased, from a somewhat generous 18.5 inches to 17 inches. Presumably this made the airline more money, but it did little for passenger comfort. Most airlines have adopted the narrower 777 seats with the exception of Delta. So if you want to fly the 777 in comfort, fly Delta (United was 9-across on the 777, but they have started to switch to the dreaded 10-across seating). With the 787 Dreamliner, there are almost no exceptions to the super-narrow-seats caused by the nine-across format. As a result, if you fly this plane in coach, you will be miserable.
At 200 pounds I am admittedly on the fat side. But I’ve flown far fatter and been far less uncomfortable. I’d grateful that I’ve lost some weight over the past few months, or otherwise my misery would have been compounded. I’ve simply never had a flight before where I was so aware of how uncomfortably narrow my seat was. No person will find a 16.9-inch wide seat comfortable, no matter how thin they are.
The solution to this problem is to avoid it in the first place. Seatguru.com does a pretty good job of describing what the various seats are like on different airlines, including information about seat pitch (legroom) and width. I suggest never flying a long-haul on a plane with less than a 17.9-inch seat width. That’s only one inch wider than LOT's Dreamliner seats, but that one inch makes a big difference.
I knew when I booked my ticket on the LOT 787 that the seat would be narrow. I just wasn’t aware of how miserably narrow it would be. Of course, when you’re trying to get a super-cheap fare to Europe, sometimes it entails some misery.
I’m surprised Boeing allows the airlines to operate its airplanes in this manner. On one hand, it makes sense for them to just sell the planes and allow the airlines to use them as they will. But when everyone who flies a certain type of aircraft has an unpleasant experience they avoid it in the future, thus reducing that model’s lifespan. The Dreamliner could have been one of the greatest planes of all time, but by overstuffing it with seats the airlines have made it one of the worst. I know I will avoid it in the future, and anyone reading this would be wise to do the same.
Most airlines allow overweight flyers to buy an extra seat. On the 787 everyone is overweight. In cases where major discounts are offered, it might make sense for two people flying together to buy an extra seat; since the planes operate with a 3-3-3 configuration, two people could just have an empty seat between them.
I would advise my friends to never fly on a 787 Dreamliner if another plane is available at a similar price. If pursuing a hot bargain, couples should consider buying an extra seat, which would turn a miserable experience into a enjoyable one. You can contact the airline for information about how to do this.
As I’ve mentioned, we paid $625 for a round-trip flight to Europe. At that price we really couldn’t complain even if we were forced to share a crate with a bunch of chickens. Even so, I’ll fly the Dreamliner one more time, and that’s to get home; after that, only if I fly with someone and share an extra seat.
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