How desperate are we for a better flying experience? Perhaps it says something about the state of air travel today that the mere departure of a 787 from an Everett, Wash., paint plant in August was able to generate the kind of news headlines and breathless tweets normally reserved for a Kardashian meltdown. The plane isn’t even expected to hit the skies until October, but that didn’t stop Boeing from holding a webcast for enthusiasts around the world.
Look at the company site www.newairplane.com, and it’s easy to get caught up in the hype. Young, happy, attractive people pose in large, widely spaced bucket seats under a curved, sapphire-hued ceiling.
Well, stow your tray tables and return your seats to their upright and locked position, because for most of us hoi polloi, the future is decidedly less sexy.
“Airlines are getting smarter about how they maximize their opportunity in the economy cabin,” said Bryan Saltzburg, general manager of TripAdvisor Flights, which operates the plane guide SeatGuru.
Added Gary Chris, vice president of sales and marketing for aircraft interior company Heath Tecna, “The trend today is space utilization and asset utilization.”
The Dreamliner won’t be an exception. If you want the space, you’re going to have to pay for it.
So what do the passengers in steerage have to look forward to on the 787 and other new or refurbished aircraft?
Expect to see slimmer seats made with new composite materials, Saltzburg said. Meaning that even if the airlines aren’t actually giving you more total real estate, it might feel that way. Contoured seats will also help with that illusion, according to Chris.
The options expand for those with bigger expense accounts. More airlines have decided to eliminate first class altogether and replace it with tricked-out business-class arrangements. Lie-flat seats are a key amenity in business class — without them these days, airlines aren’t competitive, Saltzburg said. Carriers have also been one-upping each other on the layout of the beds, trying patterns such as herringbone and boomerang-like Vs to afford passengers both privacy and direct aisle access.