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Raves for 787 Dreamliner. Will new plane bring fun back to flying?

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IN PICTURES: Boeing 787 Dreamliner

“Of course, the PR opportunities for a new aircraft … end in positive reviews. A clean cabin with new seats, first-class service for everyone aboard, and bragging rights all around,” says marketing professor Ronald Hill of the Villanova School of Business in Pennsylvania, via e-mail. “However, its ultimate usage is in the hands of airline companies, who have given up, for the most part, competing on quality instead of price. While consumers truly dislike the flying experience and would often prefer a visit to the dentist, we have become addicted to seeking the lowest possible price for our travel.”

Overall, the two-aisle plane is much more fuel-efficient and less costly to maintain, while offering a new level of in-cabin comfort for passengers. Most planes are built mostly of metal, but half of the Dreamliner, including the fuselage and wings, is made of strong, light composite materials.

The Boeing Co. spent a decade learning what makes the flying public feel good and what types of interior architecture work best, says company spokesman Scott Lefeber. Innovations on board the 787 include LED lighting (which is cheaper, more versatile, and emits less heat), a dramatically lit entry way, bigger storage bins, cleaner air, and larger windows with unique electrochromic shades. 

But Richard Aboulafian, vice president of analysis for Teal Group, says the promise of technology can overexcite customers who may feel let down if the travel experience doesn’t measure up to the hype.

”It’s a good plane, and there is a lot of new technology that is very promising for the long run but [that] in the short run produce all kinds of glitches that reduce the quality of the experience,” says Mr. Aboulafian. “New gadgetry has a way of being quirky and idiosyncratic." Moreover, it is up to an airline – not Boeing – whether to stack in 330 seats or only a roomy 225.

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