Longtime readers know that I’m not an AvGeek. I honestly couldn’t tell one plane from another, they all look the same to me. Most of the time, I select a flight based on schedule/price or ability to use miles. Only afterwards do I check what sort of plane we will be flying, not that it really matters a whole lot.
When I need to select seats, I go to SeatGuru and search internet for suggestions. That’s basically the extent of my planning. Occasionally, I take photos of seats/legroom if I feel it will be helpful to readers, but that’s not really my niche. Most of the time, we are “cattle class” flyers. And as I’ve said before, coach is coach regardless of airline. If you don’t starve during your flight and arrive to the destination in one piece, that’s all you should really expect.
So when I booked our flight from Sydney to San Francisco on United (via Avianca Lifemiles program), I didn’t know we would be flying a Dreamliner. Nor did I care. But my husband did. As soon as he saw the plane at our gate, he was intrigued. He has read about it, and was curious what the on-board experience would be like.
Since the seats were in economy and on US carrier, I set my expectations low. Really low. And United didn’t disappoint, or should I say did disappoint. Narrow/uncomfortable seats, terrible food… basically, exactly what I though it would be like. It was going to be a looong 14 hours. It didn’t help that both me and my husband had a cold.
However, something unexpected happened. We didn’t feel too bad upon landing. Don’t get me wrong, we were pretty beat up, just not as beat up as I thought we would be after such a long flight. Normally, when we fly for 10 hours from Europe to USA, we both feel awful. I’ve never had a hangover, though I imagine that’s what it feels like. But this time was different.
It seemed like the plane had more humidity, less noise, and just felt less claustrophobic. So, when I got home, I looked it up wondering if I somehow imagined it or if Dreamliner planes are really groundbreaking when it comes to passenger comfort. According to this article, “Boeing says passengers on the aircraft will feel like they’re breathing at 6,000 feet rather than the 8,000 feet atmosphere of other aircraft. This helps reduce jet lag, headaches and fatigue.” It also mentioned that Dreamliners have cleaner air and less turbulence/noise.
So, when it came time to book our flights to/from Japan in 2020, my husband’s only request was that I redeem miles on a Dreamliner, if at all possible. Obviously, there is always a chance of an aircraft swap, but at least I would give it my best shot. So that’s what I did. We are supposed to fly on 787-9 Dreamliner operated by JAL airline from Honolulu to Osaka. On the way back we are flying on American Airlines Dreamliner from Tokyo to Los Angeles.
According to my research, JAL is vastly superior in this regard. Instead of nine seats across, they have eight. That increases the width of each economy seat, a welcome news to my larger than average husband. There is also more legroom.
Why didn’t I also redeem miles on JAL-operated flight for the way back? Because Avios program adds fuel surcharges of $110 per person for this particular airline on that route. That’s $440 extra for my family of four, and we are supposed to have in-laws with us as well. For that kind of cash difference, we will just suck it up and endure mediocre food and cramped seats. And hey, the flight is only 10 hours this time.
American doesn’t fly from Honolulu to Osaka, plus the fuel surcharge is $49 per person. I did have the option of booking Air Asia X for only $200 per person (plus plethora of various fees), but the flight would arrive to Osaka pretty late. And it wasn’t on a Dreamliner aircraft. Plus, there is something neat about flying Japan Airlines to Japan, don’t you think? This may be my only chance to try this airline, so perhaps there is a little bit of AvGeek in me after all.
You may remember that I was mildly tempted to splurge on one seat in JAL business class My husband gave me his blessing and said he would take care of the kids in economy. It would be a review for the ages, y’all! But… I’m cheap. Plus, I’ve almost depleted my Membership Rewards stash so my in-laws can meet us in Japan, and simply couldn’t justify this sort of extravagance.
I would have to part with 25k extra MR points and for what? So I could eat some decent Japanese food? I can do that at a nearby sushi place and get a “Love Boat special for two” for only $50. More comfortable seat? It’s a daytime flight, so not that big of a deal. I would have zero issues splurging the points on my husband but unlike me, he refused to leave kids behind.
So, as much as I would like to say that I felt guilty leaving my family in peasants’ section, it was the cheapness that got me. Through October 1st, I can transfer those 25k MR points to 35k Avios (due to current 40% bonus). That amount will pay for two one-way tickets from Orlando to Dublin on Aer Lingus during off-peak season
Well, at least I will be flying a Dreamliner where the same relatively clean air can be enjoyed by those in business-class as well as economy.
I can’t guarantee that your experience on Dreamliner plane will match mine. However, if you are flying for 9+ hours in economy, I believe it’s a good choice for minimizing effects of jet lag. Don’t expect miracles, though! Still, all things being equal or almost equal via miles, I personally will pick a Dreamliner plane from now on, especially on long-haul routes. Flying messes me up, so if I can reduce the pain somewhat, I’m all for it.
Readers, what are your thoughts on this subject?
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.