Its cutting edge carbon fiber technology is taking aviation to a new level, where special materials can make magic happen.
Dreamliner's cabin pressure is touted as a big relief for passengers who suffer from air sickness. The cabin pressure makes it feel like the equivalent of being at 6,000 feet above sea level, compared with typical airliners which are pressured at 8,000 feet.
I didn't notice any difference at all, but I don't suffer from air sickness. Most of us passengers weren't discerning enough to notice the rarefied air, but the airliner's larger windows, complete with "shades" made of gel that dims in response to electricity, were easier to spot and appreciate.
Now about the seats: They're a comfy 17.3 inches across, which fit me fine, especially after enduring a torturous chair on a commuter plane the previous day. The plane's seats are arranged in three rows of three chairs across, with two aisles. In first class, passengers stretch out on 22-inch wide lay-flat seats in the 2-by-2-by-2 configuration.
And what about Dreamliner's other goodies?
-- Specially designed cabin lighting to match the time of day
-- Cathedral-like cabin ceilings so high they would be impossible for most people to touch
-- Computers that sense imminent turbulence and command parts of the wing to make appropriate adjustments, smoothing out the ride
A bit of unstable air rocked the plane early in the flight, but it was difficult to know how the plane's anti-turbulence system affected the ride.
Airliner of the future?
The battery problems have been addressed, but the real proof of a successful fix will be in incident-free flights across the globe. With that kind of smooth flying, is the door still open for Dreamliner to realize its promise as the game-changing airliner of the future? Can global aviation titans Boeing and United put the 787's troubled battery system behind them?
Two battery overheating incidents on 787s sparked fears of possible inflight fires, prompting an announcement three months ago yanking all 50 Dreamliners out of service worldwide. Some experts dismissed the battery problems as hiccups, glitches or teething pains that all new airliners experience.
Glitch or not -- it was the first FAA grounding of an entire airliner model in more than 30 years. Supporters hailed the move as an abundance of caution.
Two weeks into the grounding, Japanese carrier ANA said it had lost $15 million. In April, Boeing wouldn't reveal how much the grounding was costing them, but it was "minimal."
For many of the thousands of employees at Boeing and United who saw their futures tied to this plane, the grounding order was more than a little unnerving. Of course, passengers were nervous too.
Grounding an airliner opens the door to damaging its reputation for safety, say experts.
The previous FAA grounding in 1979 followed the terrible crash of the now-defunct DC-10 wide-body airliner. American Airlines Flight 191 crashed on takeoff from O'Hare and killed 273 people. Authorities grounded the DC-10 for about a month until it could be determined that maintenance issues were to blame for the crash.
The DC-10 suffered an image problem after that, said Capt. Kevin Hiatt, president of the Flight Safety Foundation, an independent aviation safety think tank, but that perception faded and the DC-10 went on to be relatively successful.
The FAA's abundance of caution shouldn't be allowed to damage the Dreamliner's image, say experts, who point out that no one has been hurt in any of the Dreamliner incidents. "It's a safe airliner to get back on and fly," said Hiatt. Travelers, he said, should be very confident.
Under strict oversight, the FAA delegates certain certification activities to qualified experts, Boeing says on its website. The battery fix included a team of Boeing battery engineers and experts from outside the company.
FlyersRights.org President Paul Hudson wants an independent analysis of Boeing's battery fix. He said federal authorities are "simply taking Boeing's word for it" that the problem has been resolved and by delegating certification authority. "We think they made a mistake."
"There's never been any proof that self-certification ever resulted in a problem in an aircraft," said John Goglia, a former member of the National Transportation Safety Board, the nation's top aviation investigation agency.
Hiatt is also comfortable with the process as it pertains to Dreamliner. But his group supports the idea that the FAA self-certification system should be reviewed, to bolster its safety.
Dreamliner's days of being the next big thing may be numbered. Snapping at Boeing's heels is its arch rival Airbus, which is expected to start test flying its A350 XWB later this year. In the wake of Boeing's lithium-ion battery challenges, Airbus decided not to go with the same technology in the new plane -- opting instead for traditional -- and heavier -- nickel-cadmium batteries.
Shortly after it was grounded, United said flyers would "flock back" to the game changing aircraft after the battery problems were fixed.