Continental previews 787 interior at NBTA conference

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Continental Airlines on Monday unveiled a preview of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft interior on the floor of the National Business Travel Association's 2010 International Convention & Exposition in Houston.

Continental plans to put the 787 into service in the third quarter of 2011 on routes from Houston to Auckland; New Zealand; and Lagos, Nigeria.

The aircraft, long in the making, offers several advancements that promise to significantly advance passenger comfort.

Because the aircraft will be made from carbon composites that are both stronger and lighter than metal aircraft, it will be able to be pressurized at 6,000 feet instead of the current 8,000-feet standard, reducing the mild altitude sickness and headaches that affect some passengers.

The new construction also will allow the aircraft to increase cabin humidity to 15% from the standard 5% of other aircraft. It also reduces interior and exterior noise by up to 40%.

Also significant for passenger comfort is a vertical gust-suppression system that uses sensors in the nose of the aircraft that, similar to tail-dampening systems that stop aircraft tails from swaying, will reduce the impact of turbulence, according to Kent Craver, Boeing's regional director of passenger satisfaction and revenue marketing Kent Craver.

He also noted that the Dreamliner will have a gaseous filtration system that will remove such volatile organic compounds as hair spray, perfume and alcohol from the cabin.

Boeing also has expanded bin space for the wide-body aircraft to hold four standard-size rollaway bags. Other improvements include larger windows that can be dimmed rather than shut to allow passengers to look outside while their neighbors sleep or watch a movie and an advanced ambient LED lighting system.

Calling the plane "a game changer," Continental's senior vice president of worldwide sales, Dave Hilfman, said the new aircraft would improve fuel efficiency by 20%, reducing costs and lengthening its range to 8,200 nautical miles.

The Dreamliner will be comparable in size to the 767, Hilfman said, and Continental will configure it with 36 business-class and 192 coach seats. Hilfman said he expects that government approvals for the aircraft will come in November and that the aircraft will "shift market share with business customers."

While All Nippon Airways plans to take delivery of the first Dreamliner aircraft in the fourth quarter, Continental will be the first North American airline to receive it and will have a couple of years head-start on its competitors there.

Boeing has 55 customers for the Dreamliner with 847 aircraft on order. Continental has 25 on order, and expects to have six of them by the end of 2011. United, Northwest, American and Air Canada also have placed orders for the aircraft, but none are likely to take delivery for a couple of years at least.

Republished from sister publication Business Travel News.

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