So noisy, so dry… and so old. That’s pretty much all I could think about, as I crossed the pond for the second time this week, aboard a Boeing 767-300ER.

The last time I had that feeling, I was in first class, on a 26 year old Boeing 777-200. I mention that purely to say that even the “best” class of service doesn’t always feel up to scratch on these older planes, once you’ve gotten used to the newer generation of aircraft.

The thing is, I’ve gotten spoiled. First world, I know, but it’s a real conversation at this point. If you haven’t experienced one of the newer long haul aircraft flying, you really should.

It’s not partisan, in fact both Airbus and Boeing have phenomenal competing aircraft, with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and Airbus A350 respectively. Each brings a notably better cabin experience.

Here’s what you need to know about these newer aircraft, and why I actively try my best to end up on one for the sake of my body.

New Vs Old: Passenger Experience

Do I have a cold? Or the other “c-word” — I don’t think so — I tested plenty — but I’ve definitely felt more refreshed, even after longer flights.

To me, that mental conversation is the primary difference between flying on a newer generation plane and the remarkably reliable, but not so “passenger friendly” plane I was on. 

On a Boeing 787, Airbus A220 or Airbus A350, I can talk to someone across the aisle without remotely raising my voice. On an older generation Airbus A330, Boeing 777 or 767, you just hear a constant stream of intensely dry air drowning out other noises. The only benefit, in retrospect, was it helped dull the sound of farts in the air. It’s true!

Loud and dry, that’s the rally cry. Newer planes have solved that, thanks to new composite fuselage materials which require less intensive pressurization to keep us all sane and safe. Here are a few things you might notice, if you do a side by side flying comparison. 

Better Humidity

Both the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 offer higher humidity levels, which keep your throat, nostrils and other key areas from going quite as dry. When these things become dry, they’re more susceptible to illness, so aside from feeling better, it is better.

Better humidity doesn’t mean it feels like stepping out in Singapore, but rather, just a lot less like stepping into the arctic. It’s a more natural cabin environment for the body, much more akin to what we feel down on the ground.

view outside of an Airbus A220, the only new generation “short haul” aircraft.

Larger Windows

This is a novelty, but larger windows are a major feature. The stronger materials used to build these planes allow for more liberties with design, and the 787 and A350 offer huge windows. Stargazing, or cloud surfing has never been better.

These large windows can help with things like claustrophobia for some passengers and just generally create a feeling of greater space. Fascinatingly, the Airbus A350-1000 was designed with “vertical side walls” to minimize the plane curvature at passenger level, so people don’t feel as confined.

Less Noise

Noise is a thing on planes. That constant whisking of dry air can grate on you after a few hours on board. Both of these newer generation planes claim to be at least 20% less noisy than legacy aircraft. I’d say that’s conservative.

You really can chat without raising your voice and feel a noticeable difference in calm. It’s a fantastic cabin experience that you really must “hear” to believe.

Have You Flown On A Newer Aircraft?

Look, I might be more focused on this stuff than the average traveler, but I feel a very noticeable difference in flight. I know many I’ve spoken to tend to agree. With that said, I’d love to hear what you think.

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...

Join the Conversation

15 Comments

  1. I had been a bit skeptical of this, until I flew back from ORD to CDG on a AF 350-900 and actually managed to sleep almost all of the flight in economy (!) and arrived feeling pretty fresh. I did have an exit row seat, so not exactly representative of the average Y experience, but still very impressive.

    Can’t quite extend the same warmth to the Dreamliners in Y, as any benefits re:air pressure etc are more than outweighed by the cramped seating. Different in higher cabins obviously, but I even then I still prefer that Airbus.

    That said, there are some older planes where the experience in Y is better. If you can get a 777 that still has 3-3-3 seating (they’re a rarity nowadays) or an Airbus 333 with 2-4-2 seating I can overlook a lot in terms of cabin pressure. Just my two cents.

  2. Best Economy class experience these days is on an Airbus 330-900 NEO.
    A nice blend of 2-4-2 config and great cabin experience

  3. I wish i had the opportunity to give my kids a holiday across the pond in one of these new aircrafts. Disney land has always been on our minds but its so expensive. I’ve tried but always fail due to funding. Maybe one day we’ll experience it.

  4. Over the years I have struggled with migraines or just feeling really crummy at the end of every flight; especially overseas flights but even short ones. Then, several years ago I flew to Europe from SFO and was shocked when I landed that I didn’t feel kind of sick. I had noticed the plane looked different too. I was thrilled and started googling immediately to find out why I felt so much better. I then discovered I had flown a 787 dreamliner and read about the differences (air pressure, air quality, humidity, noise etc.). I can attest to the difference since I noticed how much better I felt before I knew the plane claims to provide a better passenger experience. Since then I do my very best to always fly on a Boeing 787. I have not been able to try the airbus because it hasn’t been on the routes I take from SFO. So yes, I believe there is a very big difference in passenger experience, especially for those of us who are sensitive to the stress flying can place on the body. (By the way, all these flights were in coach.)

  5. I take the opposite point of view. The 767 while “old” has a much more comfortable seat than an A330-900 does. Though the 321 is more comfortable than a 737-900ER or 757. Guess it really depends on the plane.

  6. In 2019 I flew to LAX from Heathrow on a virgin Atlantic dreamliner and for a 10hr long haul flight. It was superb. The mood lighting did it for me and yes we could hold a normal conversation without shouting. And apart from the mechanical problems with the dreamliner I still highly recommend it for long haul flights. Still waiting though for an Airbus experience so I can compare between the two.

  7. I dream of flying in an a380 – even just in economy. An a350 would be immense too. 787s and a330s are great too, I hear. I always fancied a 747 too, but that’s never going to happen, nor will going on an a340. I’ve been on precisely two wide body planes – I think they were 777-200s, but that was 15 years ago. I was only in economy but I thought it was the most amazing thing ever! I’ve never had a near-inifite range of movies, TV shows, music, and whatever else.

    These days I can’t afford such luxury. I can only afford RyanAir – the planes might be new (737 MAX) but the experience is the same – crammed into awful tiny seats without so much as a magazine to read. I just booked some flights yesterday and to “upgrade” to EasyJet and a nice A320 was almost double the price.

    The other consideration is that all the places that widebodies would go are more expensive when you’re there, so it’s a lose-lose situation.

  8. I have booked to fly LHR-GRU via Frankfurt on Lufthansa’s 747-8, purely to fly in the bubble of a 747 one last time, I doubt I will ever get to do it again

  9. Just flew AA Flagship business Miami to LAX and to have a bed was wonderful, and rare in business statewide. I also flew Jet Blue Mint with a bed to LAX and it was beyond comfortable.
    PS say hi to your dad from me. Old friends!

  10. I also appreciate the larger overhead bins to accommodate the carryons. I have the smaller carryon version of (x) brand and was asked by (x) airlines to check it last June to Norway. After pointing out I was in first class I was allowed to take the carryon on board. In Bergen, (x) airlines had lost my checked bag. Imagine losing my carryon also? So, I really appreciate the newer overhead bins.

  11. “Newer planes have solved that, thanks to new composite fuselage materials which require less intensive pressurization to keep us all sane and safe. ”

    Wrong way round: new materials allow more intensive pressurisation, i.e. you can maintain the cabin at 5000ft rather than 8000ft equivalent pressure. Breathing is much easier, especially welcome on routes where masks still required.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.