No revolution but ANA 787-10 is above average

by John Walton
May 14, 2019
ANA 787-10 above average
Photo: ANA

All Nippon Airways (ANA)  has launched its first flights aboard its third variant of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the double-stretched 787-10, which it plans to use on flights to southeast Asia.

Little on board is revolutionary, and indeed the seats will be relatively familiar to both frequent ANA flyers and regular travelers.

But the aircraft has notable features in all three cabins: a new version of ANA’s business class seating, a relatively small premium economy cabin and well above average seat pitch in economy.

READ: Qantas to launch frequent flyer-only “Points Planes”.

In business class, the hard product is a staggered seat that resembles highly the existing Safran Seats (formerly Zodiac Aerospace) SKYlounge product that has for some years been the ANA long-haul standard, seen on the Boeing 777, Airbus A380 and earlier long-haul versions of the787.

Yet this is a new layout for ANA. Previous 787s have been in alternating 1-2-1 and 1-1-1 layouts, giving seven effective “columns” of seats, whereas this new aircraft is alternating 1-2-1 and thus has eight“columns”.

The end result is no more “throne” seats in the middle section, and narrower seats overall.

SKYlounge is a good seat, similar in function (though fortunately not dripping-in-burled-walnut-and-brass) to the Emirates A380 business class product, and its staggered layout is well-received by Japanese-market flyers, inbound business class passengers to Japan, and travelers connecting over ANA’s hubs.

787-10 all nippon aboive average
The 787-10 offers the same seat as its longhaul stablemates, but narrower. Photo: ANA

What’s notable, though, is that this long-haul seat is being placed on aircraft that are notionally “regional” in scope, services on which the Japanese carriers previously used angled lie-flat seats.

It’s just over seven hours of block time to launch city Singapore and six and a half to Bangkok, also named as a destination for the -10.

ANA plans to acquire a total of three 787-10s by the end of fiscal year 2020 and gradually introduce them to its Southeast Asian routes as part of its commitment to bringing “top-of-the-line aircraft and technology to travelers”.

Thirty-eight business class seats will feature between doors 1 and 2 on the stretched Dreamliner in the alternating 1-2-1 configuration: slightly fewer than the smaller 787-9.

Further back, there’s a surprisingly small cabin of premium economy, in the usual 2-3-2 Dreamliner layout, each of which has 38 inches of pitch. The seats look fairly generic, with little design language to give away their manufacturer, and while there is nothing surprising they are a solid choice.

All Nippon 787-10 above average
It would be nice to see something other than a wall of grey thermoplastic. Photo: ANA

On to economy, where the size of the premium economy section may be dictated by the relatively spacious economy class seat pitch.

While the layout is in the narrow and unfortunately common 3-3-3 configuration — competitor JAL is the only airline to operate the significantly more pleasant 2-4-2 layout on its Dreamliners — ANA does offer 34 inches of seat pitch.

USB power and AC outlets are on offer throughout the aircraft, as is an updated inflight entertainment system.

It’s pleasing to note that the IFE boxes have been tucked away from passengers’ legs. Photo: ANA

The passenger experience on board ANA’s 787-10 is notably above average and will position the airline above the numerous long-haul, low-cost carriers operating between Japan and Southeast Asia.

This is a region that is seeing a tourism boom, particularly with airlines such as AirAsia X, Scoot/NokScoot, Jetstar and Lion Air.

JAL’s low-cost carrier, Zipair Tokyo, is currently slated to start operations in 2020, and the wider context of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games may well also have implications for ANA’s positioning decisions for the aircraft.

As a result of the low-cost carriers’ front cabins, ANA and other carriers on these routes face downward pricing pressure on regional premium cabins.

This may be why the premium economy cabin is relatively small.

It does, however, see a substantial amount of strategic transfer traffic over NRT to southeast Asia from North America — from where there are few nonstop flights.