How to Fly on the United 787 Dreamliner

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While I don’t post often about airline news, I can’t help but share news about the 787 Dreamliner flying to and from my hometown airport.  United is the first American airline to fly this new American built plane.  I think that is pretty exciting.  Some international routes have already been announced, and those will start in December, but United will fly the plane domestically for a few months before crossing the Atlantic, and later the Pacific.  I actually already have tickets on the inaugural flight from Denver to Narita for March of next year.  It was the first officially announced international route, but it won’t actually be the first international route flown.  I’m still excited about the trip, but I am now itching to get on an earlier domestic flight or two.  The aircraft is just that cool (and I need about a few thousand more miles to hit Platinum status with United for this year – which will allow me to grab up to 8 E+ seats when I make reservations, help me avoid many fees, amongst other benefits).

Today in the Sky summarizes the announced temporary domestic routes nicely here:

Houston Bush Intercontinental-San Francisco-Houston Bush Intercontinental
Flight times: 5:45 p.m. westbound, 12:15 a.m. eastbound
Dates: Nov. 4-Dec. 2 (5 times weekly)

Houston-Los Angeles-Houston
Flight times: 3:30 p.m. westbound, 6:25 p.m. eastbound
Dates: Nov. 4-Dec. 3 (7 times weekly)

Houston-Chicago O’Hare-Houston
Flight times: 7:25 a.m. northbound, 11:15 a.m. southbound
Dates: Nov. 4-Dec. 3 (6 times weekly)

Houston-Newark Liberty-Houston
Flight times: 8 a.m. northbound, 3:30 p.m. southbound
Dates: Nov. 4- Jan. 3 (Daily, except Nov. 18)

Flight times: 7 a.m. northbound, 4 p.m. southbound
Dates: Nov. 10 (one-day service)

Houston-Washington Dulles-Houston
Flight times: 7 a.m. northbound, 3:50 p.m. southbound
Dates: Nov. 17 (one-day service)

Houston-San Francisco-Houston
Flight times: 5:45 p.m. westbound, 12:15 a.m. eastbound
Dates: Dec. 3-Jan. 3 (daily service)

Houston-Los Angeles-Houston
Flight times: 3:30 p.m. westbound, 6:25 p.m. eastbound
Dates: Dec. 4-Jan. 3 (daily service)

Flight times: 7:20 a.m. westbound, 10:15 a.m. eastbound
Dates: Dec. 5-Jan. 2 (daily service)

Houston-Los Angeles-Houston
Flight times: 7:35 a.m. westbound, 12:30 p.m. eastbound
Dates: Jan. 3-March 31 (daily service)

Houston-Chicago O’Hare-Houston
Flight times: 7:25 a.m. northbound, 11:15 a.m. southbound
Dates: Jan. 4-March 29 (daily service)

Flight times: 9:15 a.m. westbound, 2:15 p.m. eastbound
Dates: March 31 and onward (daily service)

Kind of like with the international service, these first “officially announced domestic routes” won’t necessarily turn out to actually be the first routes or dates flown.  The United press release states that they “will announce plans for the official first commercial 787 flights, which are expected to occur prior to Nov. 4 but only after proving/validation flights and training are complete.”  So, don’t purchase one of these routes if you are only doing it because you want to be on the “first flight”.  That will likely happen in October, and we don’t yet know when/where.

I already have tickets to/from Houston to LAX, EWR, and ORD for later this year.  I actually have really been hoping that my family’s flights to Newark in late November could be on the Dreamliner, and it looks like that may be a possibility.  They are United award tickets, so I can change the time/date without penalty until 21 days before departure (assuming there is award space on our desired flight).  However, I don’t see an 8AM Northbound and 3:30PM Southbound flight.  I see a 3:05PM Southbound and a 4:30PM Southbound.  The press release does say that the schedule will vary slightly based on the day of the week, so if you want to book one of these keep that in mind.  It also says that the flights will be loaded for sale beginning September 1st, so all of those questions should be answered then.

If you want to fly on one of the temporary domestic routes, hop online on September 1st and see if any of the flights work for you.  You could also do like I am doing and try to adjust an existing award reservation to one of the 787 flights.  As with all flights, there is always a chance of an equipment swap, so just be aware of that risk.  It won’t stop me from trying to get on the 787, but it is an important reminder if you are booking or changing a flight solely to be on a specific aircraft type.

Not only does the 787 make less noise and require less fuel, but it also has improved lighting, bigger windows, larger overhead bins, lower cabin altitude and enhanced ventilation systems, among other passenger-friendly features.  With kiddos, I am really happy about the lower cabin altitude and better ventilation systems.  Hopefully that will make flying just a little bit easier on their systems.

You will find me online on Saturday morning looking to see if I can find a way on a few of these flights.  Maybe if I am super lucky one of my existing reservations will end up on one of these flights without any intervention on my part!  Anyone else planning on trying to fly one of these Dreamliner flights?!


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  1. […] But before those routes start, United will fly the plane between its domestic hubs. The very first flights haven’t been announced, but United did release the routes the planes will fly between November 4 and March 31. (H/T Mommy Points.) […]

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  1. Considering that its only a three hour drive from Columbus to Cleveland, its really tempting to make the drive and catch a weekend flight from Cleveland to Houston and back – just to say that you were the second person in that seat on a brand new aircraft. How often does something like this happen anymore, right?

    However, just because I want to doesn’t mean that I will be allowed to.

  2. Holy crap.. I”m a flight attendant for United and I didn’t even know this information!!! I can’t wait to work on the plane.. I’ll look for you and Little C. 🙂

  3. Just flew the JAL NRT to BOS Dreamliner route on Monday. I’m not an airplane enthusiast, but it did seem to be somewhat quieter than other planes and generally felt more spacious. The overhead bins are huge.
    The “niftiest” thing was the polarizing windows that allow you to change the shading at the touch of a button. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of the pull-down shutter so that you can’t completely black out the window.

  4. @Cowboy Joe, totally feel you on that last sentence. I will have to do some negotiating to make it myself. 😉
    @Laura S, ha ha. That would be very awesome to end up on one of your flights – especially on that plane!
    @LarryinNYC, thanks for sharing and lucky you for being on the JAL flight!
    @Kris, fingers crossed for you. I bet you have a good shot. 😉

  5. Do you think that “first commercial flight” in October is actually bookable by the public? I have tickets for DEN-NRT too but kinda want to be on the official first domestic flight.

    • @Jon, the release makes it sound like there will be commercial flights in October. These will come after flights that are not bookable by the public. I too would love to be on the official first domestic flight, but that may or may not be a realistic goal for me depending on how far in advance it is announced.

  6. Platinum on UA? I shudder at the thought of that many miles in UA economy, lol…

    The UA 787’s are still going to be 2 cabin aircraft wihout first class, correct?

    @LarryinNYC Have a coworker that recently flew the JAL 787 as well and had the same impression…

    • @Jeff, ha ha. It was mostly UA economy. I have (so far) lived to tell the tale. Though my SMD4 SFO-FRA-ZRH-LAX economy ticket may do me in. It is on Star Alliance partners instead of UA, but it is a ton of economy travel in a 48 hour window! The UA 787s are two class – “BusinessFirst” and economy (both E+ and regular economy seats).

  7. Thanks for the info MP. I booked some award reservations in Business First out of SFO on November 4th and hope they turn into 787 flights on September 1st. Not the best use of miles but worth it IMO to fly the new plane. Can always cancel for free if need be for no fee as a 1K.

    • @WWJD, fingers crossed for you. Miles are valuable for all types of reasons – using them to fly a plane you are super excited about is one of them. Gotta love the 1K no award fees. 😉

  8. It makes me feel bad that St Louis is so left behind these days. It used to be such an exciting city to fly out of on TWA. Lambert Field is just a shell of it’s former self. We leveled whole neighborhoods and spent millions building a runway the space shuttle could land on and now $70 million remodeling the terminals just to be ignored by all these great planes. It’s not uncommon to see 6 seat prop planes sitting next to MD-80s or regional jets at the main gates. AA took our virginity on that first date with TWA and wouldn’t return our calls to remain a hub. Sure SW uses us for our new East terminal when they can but how long can that last. Please United send us a 787 Dreamliner for a visit. Maybe a touch and go on our new big runway or even a tower flyby on the way to Chicago.

  9. Having witness the 787 first flight first hand, I’m actually looking forward to accumulating United miles so I can one day fly the SEA-NRT on ANA. btw, if you are still interested, i still have the 787 Dreamliner hat for you to giveaway to your reader especially since it relates to this post. My token of appreciation for this blog since I consistently read it for guidance. Let me know.

  10. Glad to hear so many are as excited about this as I am!
    @Ko, sure that would be great – and thanks for the nice offer!
    @Senorric, I agree!
    @Root Down, that press release is linked in the article, but thanks for sharing it again in case anyone missed it.

  11. I’m not entirely sure why anyone wants to fly on this bird in United configuration… It’s only a few inches wider than the 767 and yet features an extra seat in each economy row (9 across). This makes it one of the narrowest seats out there, at around 17.4″ and features the same surly United flight attendants. Even in Business you’re sitting 6 across! Air Canada has 3 across on their 767s and 330s.

    I know SeatGuru says E seats are 18.3″ wide, but that’s pretty much impossible as the ANA 787 is 18.5″ width at 8 across. It’s basically impossible to cram one extra seat in each row and still maintain the same pitch without eliminating aisles completely 😛

  12. If you actually want to fly the 787 *well* pick up a seat on the ANA one. That’s a flight you won’t soon forget if you’re up front.

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