Have you ever watched a bottle of water become a crushed, miniature version of itself while airborne?

That simple visual is the most common reminder that flying in a metal tube is not quite like life down on earth. Fortunately, airlines are investing major dough in upgrading their fleets- and some of the newer offerings are simply fantastic for the passenger experience. Here’s how to choose between the best new planes…

Speaking of passenger experience, you can also check out the best and worst long haul airlines for legroom…

Airbus A380

The A380 is perhaps the most inventive relative newcomer, offering two decks the entire length of the plane. It’s hard to understand the scale until you’ve actually set foot in one, but it’s wonderful, it’s spacious, and you can check out a first class review here.

A380 Passenger Experience Pros

  • Whisper quiet
  • Movements feel very stable.
  • Showers (Emirates, Etihad).
  • On board bar (Emirates, Etihad, Qatar).
  • Anti turbulence system.
  • Cool mood lighting.
  • Tail camera, viewable from seat.

A380 Passenger Experience Cons

  • Dense seating in economy.
  • Cabin pressure not quite as good, compared to 787, 350.

Airlines Flying It…

Asiana, Air France, British Airways, China Southern, Etihad, Emirates, Korean, Lufthansa, Malaysia, Singapore, Qatar, Qantas.

Boeing 787

The Dreamliner was the first “new generation” aircraft, featuring a totally reinvented cabin experience, better air pressure, humidity and larger windows. You’ll feel an improvement on just about everything, including breathing. Though the windows may not be the most effective, they’re pretty cool...

787 Passenger Experience Pros

  • Excellent cabin pressure, air quality.
  • Larger windows, cool “tinting” shades.
  • Spacious lavatories, often with window.
  • Anti turbulence system.
  • Incredible cabin lighting.
  • Quiet.

787 Passenger Experience Cons

  • Slightly tight in most economy cabins (due to width).
  • Window tints don’t “fully” blackout. No blackout shade.
  • No showers. Bar only on Virgin Atlantic.

Airlines Flying It…

Aeromexico, Air Austral, Air Canada, Air China, Air Europa, Air France, Air India, Air New Zealand, ANA, American, Avianca, Azerbaijan, British Airways, China Southern, Ethiopian, Etihad, Hainan, JAL, Kenya, Korean, LATAM, LOT, Norwegian, Oman, Qantas, Qatar, Royal Brunei, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, Saudia, Scoot, TUI, United, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Virgin Atlantic, Xiamen.

Airbus A350

The A350 is the newest “new generation” offering, acting as a direct competitor to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Being the newest, the A350 is an attempt to improve upon the passenger experience trends started by the Dreamliner. High ceilings, great air pressure, you can hear a pin drop! Check out a review in business class here.

A350 Passenger Experience Pros

  • Best cabin pressure of any plane (most like ground).
  • Extremely quiet, only beaten by A380.
  • Push button full blackout window shades.
  • High ceilings, feeling of space.
  • 5% more humidity than Boeing 787 (more natural).
  • Widest average economy seats.
  • Tail, belly, landing gear cameras viewable from seat.

A350 Passenger Experience Cons

  • No showers. No proper bars, just social areas.
  • Not enough airlines have them!

Airlines Flying It…

Asiana, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Ethiopian, Finnair, LATAM, Malaysian, Lufthansa, Qatar, Singapore, Thai, Vietnam.

Soon: China Southern, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways.

The Verdict:

Economy Winner: A350

Business Class Winner: A350 (unless you enjoy an A380 bar on Qatar, Emirates or Etihad).

First Class Winner: A380.

Having flown each plane in each cabin, we consistently feel the freshest on the A350. The more natural cabin pressure, humidity and noise are instantly comforting. The push button window blinds are sleek, the high ceilings and extra large overhead bins create a sense of space- it’s just tough to beat.

Obviously the A380 is fantastic for its innovative bars and showers, but unless you’re flying business or first, these are non factors. The 787 is also an incredible plane, and the main guidance here is to choose one of these three over any older plane, where the air, humidity, noise, bathrooms and overall space will not be as good.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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19 Comments

  1. the window tinting is a MAJOR plus for the 787. I love being able to see outside while not being blasted at full brightness. Any pull-down solution, whether it’s 380 or 350, are still blasting at max brightness with a smaller area, which doesn’t help at all.

  2. 787 for the win on my behalf. A380’s turbulence I personally couldn’t handle. Cabin pressure and no jet lag truely came from the 787 but in saying that I have yet flown the A350!

  3. Flew 4 segments from JFK to SIN via Doha on Qatar A350 business. Overall, agree with the pros on A350 especially the noise and humidity in the cabin.

  4. “Have you ever watched a bottle of water become a crushed, miniature version of itself while airborne? ”

    Please do your research. Air pressure is LOWER in cabin thus your bottle would expand.

    Con: no showers??? Right. Most planes don’t have showers. Why not no sofas, no pools, no concert halls or bowling alleys.

    1. If you’re trying to tell me you’ve never seen a bottle of water contract on a plane, only expanding again when you pull the cap off- you clearly have not even flown on an airplane.

      And showers? They exist, so do bars. People have them- so they are worth mentioning, as it’s an amazing novelty experience- with some actually beneficial merit… unlike this comment.

      1. If cabin pressure is LOWER than the “ground pressure” trapped inside the bottle, than it will Expand. This is basic science. You cannot change the laws of physics just because you don’t like them.

        – If instead you are seeing the bottle contract, there is a different explanation… perhaps changes in temperature (hot air in a bottle will contract when cooled by air conditioning).

  5. You are probaly right, that the A350 have set new standards. But for me the best experience is the 747-8i. It’s just something magic about it. The beauty of the plane is just …. or the possibility to sit in front of the Cockpit if you can get a Seat in row 1 of the main deck.

  6. Haven’t used the A350 yet. My preference is the 747-8 upper deck. Feels not so crowded as in A380 business class, is more silent as the old 747-4 altough a bit noisier than A380 but well, its just a classic, still love the good old 747 design with modern update in 747-8
    Regards, Ralf

    1. The 350 really blew my mind. I too like the UD on the 747, just not quite as proficient with the air pressure. I really value the quiet and the better temperature, moisture, etc. 747 UD will always be a favorite, and I fly BA a lot, so will gladly take that any day on their 747!

  7. It’s very obvious the A380 is the best of the lot. Just a pity more Airlines don’t fly it. Perhaps they have not appreciated the fantastic passenger appeal it can generate

  8. I absolutely loved Hainan’s Boeing 787 experience! I can’t imagine how much the Airbus 350 is though now I’m convinced it’s the best!

    On Hainan, it was one of my first experiences to have an open social space on an airplane! It helped me pass the time, and just feel comfortable.

    I’ll take Hong Kong Airlines, which has an Airbus 350 now (you can add it), and see how much nicer it is than the “Dreamliner.” If it is better, I feel like everything I knew about comfort will have to change.

    As a frequent flyer of the Boeing 777 and Airbus 330, these new planes are a welcome change.

  9. no shower as a Con xD that can be a Pro, not a Con
    instead of A350, isn’t it the matter of those who ordered it and their preferences seeing the space they’ve got? Airbus is pretty much able to put showers on A350 too, if you want it, right?
    same goes for the Bar. you can add no golf fields on A380’s second deck as a con. same goes for no proper Casinos

  10. Every Emirates A380 I’ve flown on has nose, tail and belly cameras, and Qantas has at least nose and belly cameras. The quiet of the a380 is amazing, I’d love to fly an a350 if it’s even better!

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