What makes the Boeing 787 Dreamliner a brand differentiator? Video tour

After production delays of over two years, an analyst called the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the “delay-liner”. But aren’t production delays part and process of every new aircraft that is designed from scratch? It was the case with the Airbus A380 and even the Boeing 747. I believe it is important to look beyond the hue and cry about the delays and would like share my thoughts about the engineering and design marvel that the Boeing 787 is, and how it can be a brand differentiator for many airlines.

I was fortunate enough to be given a private tour of the Boeing 787 cabin, and I published the photos on SimpliFlying earlier. Now, I’m publishing the exclusive video tour of the cabin, which is housed in a life-sized mock-up of the plane at Boeing’s state-of-the-art Customer Experience Center. I was very impressed with this flying machine, and you’ll know why when you watch the video.

Here are three things I feel that will make the Boeing 787 experience very different for airlines, and passengers.

1. Boeing brings back the charm of flying

Did you know that the windows in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner are much larger than any planes flying today? Did you know that they have no window shades, and you control the % luminosity from a button below the window?

Colleen Rainbolt, from the Passenger Experience and Revenue dept told me that all of these features were designed so that people would enjoy flying  again. Very simply, every kid has a dream to fly. But when we grow up and are faced with the reality of the unpleasant flying experience, we’re turned off. But by being able to see the sky at all times, as opposed to closing the window shades for a majority of flying time, I think it’s going to make a significant impact on the experience.

2. So spacious, the 787 doesn’t feel like a plane

If you watch me enter the plane below, you’ll realize the kind of space I’m talking about. I did not even feel this spaciousness in Emirates’ A380’s First Class, which I felt entering the Economy cabin of the 787. Boeing has removed the galley we all encounter upon entering a plane. And that create a lot of room!

Moreover, the blue lighting is such that it makes the plane ceiling feel very high and has a calming effect on the passenger

3. Everything is designed with the customer in mind

That is, the airline customer, and the traveling public. For the airlines, Boeing has instituted a lot of flexibility. For example, seats in the Economy cabin can be 6-abreast, 7-abreast, 8-abreast and even 9-abreast, depending on the airline’s priorities and the sector it is serving.

For the passenger, the stow bins are much larger, have ergonomic, easy to use latches and slide down. Even the toilet doors feel like those at home, rather than those that fold in.

See all of these features and more for yourself in the SimpliFlying-exclusive tour!

So, what do you think? Does the 787 have what it takes to be a successful differentiator for airlines? Would passengers flock to it? Would they pay a premium for it? Let’s discuss in the comments or over on Twitter (@simpliflying)

Special thanks to Colleen Rainbolt for leading this tour, to Miles Kotay for arranging this for me at a day’s notice and to Jon Ostrower, the Flightblogger, for helping another aviation freak find the right people in Boeing.

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Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam is the CEO of SimpliFlying and a globally sought-after consultant, speaker and thought-leader on airline branding and customer engagement strategy. He is also the youngest winner of the Global Brand Leadership Award and has addressed senior aviation executives globally, from Chile to Canada and from Sydney to San Francisco. Shashank's perspectives have found their way into major media outlets, including CNN Travel, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg UTV, Mashable and in leading publications like Airline Business, ATW, Aviation Week, and others. Shashank studied Information Systems Management and Business Management at Singapore Management University and Carnegie Mellon University. Hailing from India, he splits his time between Singapore and Vancouver, among other cities.
Shashank Nigam
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  • Emile

    I think the really differentiating factor of the 787 lies within the technological aspects. No more bleed from the engines for the airco and a lower cabin altitude will bring healthier air and a lot less “jet lag” symptons, plus a lot more fuel efficiency. A couple of other things like that make the 787 stand out from other aircraft. An open entrance is nice, but an option that will probably not be chosen by that many airlines. Just like with the A380, eventually most of them will try to make use of empty space as much as possible (by putting seats or a galley there). Of course each A380 cabin will be less spacious then an A350 or 787 cabin since the ceiling part of the A380 is so huge they’ve used it for a complete second layer of cabin. Tint control on windows is something I’ve seen before on the King Air (not electronic though), which is a nice touch. The bigger windows are certainly nice, but in the time when flying was still magical the windows were as tiny as they are now. I don’t think it will rebring people back in awe with flying. Its nice to see options for colored lighting, but I doubt it’s very practical. If I would have some notes on white paper written with a blue pen (not very uncommon), I wouldn’t be able to read them anymore (neither other blue-white graphics). And I think Colleen’s skin would look even nicer when in a natural tint instead of white-blueish.

    Nice touches, although I think the personal entertainment features, wifi and legroom determined by the airlines will make a much bigger difference. Curious to see how the A350 will turn out.

    • Shashank Nigam

      @Emile: I’d agree with with you that there are many other technological aspects of the 787 that put it in its own league, like the composite materials it’s made of.

      However, I’ve seen the windows myself and can vouch for the fact that bigger windows will make flying more real, more fun and more enjoyable for a majority of the people. It’s not just the person with the window seat, but even others who’d be able to look outside the plane without straining their necks. Same for the lighting. I’d recommend you get on a Virgin America flight, or an Emirates flight if you haven’t done so, to feel the difference lighting makes to the mood of the passenger. It’s soothing indeed.

      And yeah, I’m looking forward to the A350 too, but much more to the 787 first flight, which is going to happen much sooner.

  • HJ

    colleen rainbolt is hot!

  • Jeanne


  • Yogesh Pagar

    That was a nice short video.
    But wished, while speaking about the features, Colleen had taken us around the cabins & video moved around.

    • Shashank Nigam

      @yogesh: I’m getting so many request for this that I’m in serious thoughts to go back on the plane after the first flight =)
      @HJ: Hmm…I guess she does have a good camera presence =)

  • Emile

    @Shashank: So if I understand correctly the lighting is not a differentiating feature then, since it’s already available now on other types? I have heard of the stellar lighting presentation by Emirates, however in the video it really seems way too blue. I mean, my skin doesn’t appear blue when under a blue sky (I know, you can adjust it to whatever way you like). Might be the white balance of the camera?
    However, you were asking about differentiation. In the end the windows are probably the biggest development and outstanding feature. However nice (I do like it), I doubt it will trigger people into wanting to pay a premium fee to see more clouds and ocean for 10 hours. The cleaner air might though I think. And perhaps it will be more quiet?

  • Shriram Moharil

    Very interesting question. I think the Boeing 787 does represent an important step in commercial aviation. Given its novel cabin lighting scheme, I could already see myself experiencing less jet lag while travelling aboard this aircraft – an important consideration for any customer. Also, I do believe that that if this aircraft is deployed as intended, i.e. in a true point-point fashion, it would greatly reduce the number of additional flights that a customer has to take, in order to get to his/her eventual destination.

    So yes, I do agree that this is a brand differentiator and will certainly improve the overall experience of an airline passenger in the years to come.


  • Ted Langs 泰德兰格

    Well right now the brand is still a “dream” since it is having outsourced parts difficulties (a seperate topic of discussion). Seems Airbus has similar brand issues too. Boeing was smart at the time, to not go the way of Airbus’ oversized commercial airliner however I wonder, given the fuel and world economics that this new dynamic needs to be addressed. Does the 787 now make sense for the foreseeable, cost justified future? I am pro-Boeing but I see their commercial aircraft business model differently.

  • George Tierney

    Since branding effectivness is more see than hear ….. we didn’t see much of the 787… it was mostly hearing a litany of opinions from an, albeit, nice young lady but if your selling the public, show how comfortable the seating is and the extra’s .. just didn’t see much. Sorry if I was too critical…

  • Shelley Rosen

    I am a 3 million flyer on United Airlines. While this new aircraft sounds very exciting the only way to be exctied about air travel is to enhnace the ENTRIE user experience– from the time one makes the reservation to check-in, boarding, on-time departure and luggage retreival. Consumers’ time is valuable. As I tell all flgiht attendents when I land late ( most if not all United Flights are late) “My job starts when this plane lands.” The cusotmer centric mentality does not exist inthe airline buisness with the award winning exception of Southwest. I hope Beoing works with each airline client to improve the whole experience. I wish the Boeing 787 great success, but without the employees valuing the passengers time and an operations system that is timely, the actual flight does not matter. Shelley Rosen, brand story teller. srosen@airliftideas.com

  • Hemant Patwardhan

    Can’t upload the video. But high time Boeing came out with an innovative new product – the last one out was the 747 and that was ages ago. Would be interesting to see how this plays out with the A380 – the point-to-point travel predictions (Boeing) versus the hub-and-spoke configuration (Airbus).

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