Choosing The Best Business Class Seats On United’s 787 Dreamliner (They’re Not All The Same)

Which seats should you choose on the United Airlines 787 Dreamliner? Not all are created equal.

If you’re planning to travel in the Polaris Business Class cabin on United Airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner, your experience may vary considerably depending on where you sit.

United presently operates two variants of the Dreamliner, the 787-8 and 787-9. The airline will also begin service in the next year on the 787-10, though preliminary reports indicate the 787-10 will be equipped with a variant of the new Polaris seating product currently used on the 777-300er. The 787-8 and 787-9 are both equipped with the B/E Diamond offset lie-flat seats first introduced by Continental Airlines in the mid 2000s, in a 2-2-2 configuration. Other than the new Polaris seats, these are (still) the best business class seats in United’s fleet.

Their design presents some unique quirks that diminishes legroom in some of the seats. You’ll want to consider your exact seat location carefully if you’re trying to maximize leg and sleeping space on the Dreamliner.

I had the chance to get intimate with a Dreamliner at United’s annual Family Day picnic in San Francisco last weekend. Here is my (somewhat subjective) analysis of the best and worst business class seats on the aircraft.

Bulkheads Are Best

On some of United’s aircraft — specifically the Boeing 747-400 and 767/777 variants that feature three cabins — the bulkhead row seats are no different from every other row. Not so on the Dreamliner.

The photograph on the left is a standard set of seats in the center section of the aircraft. The photograph on the right shows the difference in bulkhead space.

For a different illustration of the difference in the size of footwells in the bulkheads compared to those in every other row, here’s a pair of photographs featuring my size 13 shoes. I could easily turn on my side or have my feet rest at an angle in the bulkhead row. In the normal seat, forget about any wiggle room.

Choose Seats On The Outside Of The Slant

The B/E Diamond seats are installed at an angle, with rows near the window facing the window and the pair of seats in the center facing toward the right side of the aircraft.

Not only is the forward-most footwell not constrained between two seats, but the angle of the seat creates a deeper space for your feet to rest. The forward footwell ends up slightly larger than the rear footwell, enough to make a difference if you’re tall or big footed (or both).

The footwell on the forward-most seat in a seat pair (right) is slightly larger than the footwell on the left, which gets sandwiched in between the forward passengers.

The effect is the same for seats near the window. The window seats have slightly larger footwells than the aisle seats, which are sandwiched between the two seats in front.

Bottom Line

Any business class seat is an improvement over an economy class seat, and for shorter and smaller passengers the difference in footwell size might not be noticeable. However, if space is important remember to look for bulkhead seats and seats with a footwell not constrained by the center console.

The following maps, first for the 787-9 and second for the 787-8, highlight the most desirable (green outline) and least desirable (red outline) seats on United’s Dreamliner fleet.


What’s youre favorite place to sit on the Dreamliner? Share in the comments below. 

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  1. I flew 4D on a 787-9 for 14 hours (MEL to LAX) and found it delightful. I’m 5’6 and have smaller feet than you do. My point- your criteria aren’t the same as mine.

    • I guess there are times when it must be great to be small. As a six-foot-plus traveler with size 13 feet I appreciate this information. I have flown on a United 787-9 LAX-MEL-LAX in seat 2E and found the footspace completely too small and uncomfortable.

    • The bulkhead footwells are all exceptionally large. If there is a small difference between them, it wasn’t enough for me to notice 🙂 Enjoy your Dreamliner flight!

  2. I flew in 6E on the 787-9 from SYD to LAX. Of course I should have nothing to complain about, but I had flown to Auckland a few weeks earlier in 6E on the 777-300 with the new Polaris seats. The new Polaris seats on the 777-300 are amazing and make the 787 seats look like coach. The Polaris seats on the 777 are like your own little cocoon.

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