It is funny, on most of my trips this year I was looking forward to the flight home. In February it was the chance to Fly home in First Class on British Airways. In March it was my business class flight on Air Serbia. For our New York Trip I was excited to fly on the United “inaugural” 787-10 flight from EWR to LAX. I put Inaugural in quotes because, due to maintenance issues, they technically flew this plan on several flights before this one. However, I was still excited. I have never been on a plane this new, and I honestly just love flying on the 787. While the New York trip was Stephanie’s present, the flight was my present!
I booked this flight the second they announced the dates for the inaugural flight. The first flight was technically from LAX to EWR, but flying the other direction made the most sense to me at the time, and United was treating the entire round trip as the first flight. As this trip was specifically for this flight, I did not get to shop around. So I unfortunately did not get the best deal, but I did book the cheapest flight available. United Basic Economy for $181.20 for the one way flight. This pained the cheapskate in me. Stephanie’s direct round trip was only $30 more expensive than my one way flight.
I viewed this as a chance for United to redeem itself. As part of my Monterey Trip, I flew United Basic Economy from San Francisco to Seattle. While the flight itself wasn’t bad, it was the worst an airline has ever treated me. I felt like I was human freight; like I didn’t matter. On that trip it all started at check-in. A United Basic Economy ticket does not allow the passenger to select their seat and more importantly you are only allowed a bag that will fit under the seat in front of you. Given this baggage restriction, United does not allow online check-in for a basic economy flight. They require a United customer service rep to check you in at the airport and ensure your bag is not too big. There was no exception for the United Inaugural 787-10 Flight.
On the previous trip, the overzealous CSR decided to test my bag at multiple odd angles, to determine my bag was too big. They tried to make me pay for a checked back, and when I offered to detach the straps to make it fit at the odd angle, he made me go through the check in line all over again. I came prepared this time. With my straps already detached, I was ready for the third degree. This time the CSR just glanced at it and approved it. When i got my boarding pass and was excited to see I got a window seat! DOUBLE WIN!
United Inaugural 787-10 Flight Festivities
At Newark it is hard to move around between terminals if you are not flying out of them. All united flights leave out of terminal C and the only Priority Pass lounges are in terminal B, so I just headed to the gate. The gate area at Newark terminal C is pretty nice. The seats were more like barstools than airport benches and each had a power outlet. It was still several hours before the flight and there was not much going on. However, slowly they started setting up for the inaugural flight activities. First they brought in a massive blue and white balloon archway.
Once that was set they started setting up some posters about the new plane as well as a press podium.
They then set up a small buffet. FREE FOOD SCORE!
As the plane rolled into EWR for the first time, everyone flooded to the windows to take pictures. I myself was among them.
Once the plane was at the gate some United bigwig gave a small press conference and we boarded.
Boarding was a bit of a mob. Everyone seemed to vying to one of the first onboard the plane. As I was basic economy and board last, I did not bother and had no issue being among the last to board.
When we boarded United gave us all drink coupons and a certificate commemorating the first day of service for the 787-10
Flying on the United Inaugural 787-10 flight was absolutely one of the coolest experiences I have had in the air. The second I stepped on board you could smell that new plane smell. Well okay, there isn’t really a new plane smell but you could immediately tell it was new. Everything on the plane was in absolute pristine condition. While most planes are well maintained, there is a massive difference between a brand new plane and well maintained one. The brand new 787-10 was a sight to see, beautiful.
I was flying in economy. Economy seats on the United have 31 inches of pitch (distance between seat backs) and are 16.3-17.3 inches wide, depending on the seat. While 31 inches of pitch seems tight. I found that the slimline seats installed actually make the 31 inches pretty decent.
That being said I am only 5 foot 8 inches tall; A taller person may have a really tight squeeze in this plane. Even though they were slim the seats were actually well padded extremely comfortable. For my 6 hours I was perfectly comfortable. However the seats are very narrow, I am not sure I would be saying the same thing on a 10 hour flight cramped in one of its middle seats.
I deplaned last to snap some pictures of the empty cabin.
I was able to snap a photo of the Premium Economy Seat.
As well as the Polaris Business Class Seat.
They even let me in the cockpit!
Each seat had a brand spanking new 10 Inch High Definition LED screen on the seat in front of it. This is one of the largest screens I have seen in economy. The picture quality on these screens are bright and fantastic. They are however fixed non adjustable, this can make it difficult to view if the seat in front of you reclines. Some airlines with similar screens allow you to tilt them to adjust your viewing angle, I am not sure why airlines are going away from this. Maybe it is another part to break. During your flight you should find plenty of entertainment as there are about 200 movies and 150 tv shows to choose from.
Every economy seat had two ways to charge your devices. Either the USB port on the LED screen, or AC power on the seat.
The United 787-10 is equipment with inflight wifi. Wifi will run you $24.99 for the length of this 6 hour flight. As I was happy with watching movies the entire time, I did not bother purchasing. I have read that you can get gate to gate speeds in excess of 20Mbps, but any stream services will be blocked.
The crew must have been excited to be on the United Inaugural 787-10 flight. Though the pessimist in me thinks maybe their bosses were onboard. Gate to gate the crew was extremely cheerful and upbeat. Their wonderful service really contributed to the more than pleasant flight experience. Given that these days happy flight attendants seem to be rare on any airline, this was great. Everything on the flight was free. This made the flight even better. During each of the three drink services the flight attendants were offering free beer, wine, and liquor as well as free snacks that would normally be charged a premium. This gave the flight a real celebratory atmosphere. I have never seen a plane full of people so happy.
The flight itself was smooth. While we had some periodic turbulence, it never got heavy. Despite the fanfare at the gate, we left pretty darn close to the scheduled departure time, and landed on time.
United knows how to make an inaugural flight a special experience. The inaugural 787-10 flight was no exception. From gate to gate, you could feel that this was an event. The free food, friendly service, and celebration-like atmosphere will make this flight on a brand new plane one I will never forget. I quickly realized, however, that it would be unfair to use this experience as redemption for the poor basic economy flight I had back in November. So I guess United and I will take this to a best of 3 in September when I fly United Basic Economy for a third time to Orlando.