7 Tips For Flying On The 787 Dreamliner

Virgin departure board

In October 2011, the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner went into commercial operation with ANA.  Despite a few technical hiccups, the Dreamliner has been widely adopted by airlines all over the world.  I’ve had the pleasure of flying the Dreamliner (well on it, not actually in the cockpit) a few times.  In fact there’s a documentary on Virgin Atlantic, ‘Up In The Air’ which includes an interesting insight into how they designed their Dreamliner and the fanfare it received.

Following a recent longhaul trip on Virgin’s Dreamliner, I thought I’d share a few tips with you all (please remember, this was on Virgin and so not all Dreamliners are configured the same).  This is also from an economy perspective – sadly I had to bypass the bar and the champagne toting cabin crew.

  1. There are no loos at the back!  Very important if your 6 year old decides to leg it in a hurry down the back of the plane.  The loos are to be found behind the initial economy cabin, rows 51/52.  If you don’t need a bassinet (7 spots available onboard), I would recommend rows 46, 48 and 49.
  2. The plane is eerily quiet.  Whilst this is a positive for some (including the environment!), I actually miss the noise of the engines, drowning out my kids cries or the flush of the loos. It was so quiet I could even hear the seat next to me creaking during turbulence!  If you need white noise to help you sleep, bring your earplugs (they are provided in the Virgin welcome pack) or noise-cancelling headphones.  I would advise sitting away from the toilets are you really will spend the whole flight listening to the flush.
  3. My children love the Dreamliner as they call it the ‘disco plane’.  The cabin has very cool LED mood lighting which can be customized by the flight attendants.  However, I did find it a bit bright at certain points so remember to bring your eye mask (again, provided in the welcome back and kids get one too) and bring a scarf to drape over a bassinet.
  4. The windows are an awesome viewing platform, apparently the largest in civil aviation.  The sleek design means they don’t have window shades and are instead controlled by a button underneath. However they don’t fully ‘black out’ so to my point above, bring your eye mask.
  5. It took me ages to work out where the seat light is – tap on the seatback TV to find it.
  6. The Dreamliner appeared to have wildly fluctuating temperatures onboard.  I don’t attribute this just to the Dreamliner as I’ve experienced this on a lot of longhaul flights. However, makes sure you dress in layers and you can also turn off the air vent above the seat.
  7. Nervous fliers will like this one – the Dreamliner has turbulence sensors that can notice when bumps are ahead and give the plane time to adjust itself.  We had what should have been a horrendously bumpy landing (in fact our first landing was aborted) but it didn’t feel half as bumpy as it looked outside the window!


Despite its name, being on the Dreamliner doesn’t guarantee good night’s sleep.  You will need to bring your own tools of the trade – here’s my FAQ on how to help kids get to sleep on the plane.  A bit of trivia for you – in the naming of the plane, the finalists were: Dreamliner, Global Cruiser, Stratoclimber, and the eLiner. The Dreamliner won by only 2500 votes and I think it fits the aircraft perfectly.

1 comment

  1. Tom

    Hi Nicola, great read, I especially loved the photos- nice and colourful. I am flying on a Virgin 787 dreamliner soon and was wondering how it is for leg room in Economy. I am quite tall 6ft 7 inches (201cm), and I’m hoping the journey won’t be too painful.

    Did you notice tall people sitting uncomfortably? Hopefully my knees won’t be pressed against the seat in front- that hurts!

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