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On Approach with Rachelle Ornan - Director of Cabin Experience at Boeing

When the first Dreamliner touched down at YVR earlier this year, it was a big deal. This revolutionary aircraft is a game-changer in the words of our CEO, and we were lucky enough to have some folks from the manufacturer Boeing join us for the inaugural. One of those people was Rachelle Ornan, Ph. D, Regional Director of Cabin Experience and Revenue Analysis. Basically, Rachelle is an expert on the inside of a Dreamliner, and we were lucky enough to be able to ask her a few questions:

YVR: You have a pretty interesting job. How did you come to it?

I am most interested in the intersection of product design, human factors, and small spaces from the perspective of efficient space use and accommodating needs of people. Before joining Boeing, I worked on the design of spacecraft interiors at NASA. My first job at Boeing was in product development where we developed interior concepts that increased passenger and crew satisfaction while balancing the need for airlines to make money. The next logical step was to understand the value of our interiors and features from an airline perspective as well as to gain familiarity with the sales process so I joined Sales and Marketing two years ago.

What makes the Dreamliner different in terms of interior features?

From the moment you step on board, it’s immediately apparent you are not on a standard aircraft. The Boeing Sky Interior combines lighting and architecture to give the cabin a greater sense of spaciousness, both visual and physical. The 787 has the largest windows available today on a passenger aircraft—even someone seated in the middle seat can see outside. The cabin is bathed in cheerful light. We did away with window shades on the plane opting instead for electronically-dimmable windows. These allow the window passenger and flight attendants the ability to control the amount of light entering the cabin while still maintaining a view to the outside for all. Dramatic domed entryways and ceilings seem to open directly to the sky. Large unobtrusive pivot bins have enough stowage space to accommodate bags near the passenger’s seat. Lavatories have been redesigned with touchless technology. New intuitive control panels have been designed for easing flight attendant workload.  Fourteen lighting schemes are included standard on the Dreamliner which allow the airline to customize the experience and enhance their brand.  

What are some lesser-known features that people might not notice right away but set the Dreamliner apart?

The reduced cabin altitude is not immediately apparent but passengers simply feel better after a flight on a Dreamliner pressurized at 6,000 feet than on aircraft pressured at 8,000 feet.  Three additional "undercover" features of the Dreamliner are the gaseous filtration system which filters volatile compounds from the air, increased cabin humidity and vertical gust suppression (VGS) technology. The VGS system pre-emptively detects and mitigates turbulence before the passenger notices disruption to the ride. These features help keep passengers feeling relaxed, rested and at ease throughout the flight.

What are some things we might see in the future from Boeing in terms of interior design?

You will see a focus on passenger connectivity within the cabin, and increased customization options for airlines. The focus remains on the creation of breakthrough architecture and lighting, features geared towards improving the passenger and crew experience, and as always, an unrivaled sense of spaciousness.

What do you love most about your job?

I feel fortunate to work for a company which develops perhaps the most complex piece of machinery in the world. I enjoy representing passenger and crew needs within and outside of Boeing, and envisioning the future of air travel but most of all, I love being a part of the development of aircraft interiors. My job and everyone’s at Boeing is to facilitate international joy and global prosperity through the connection of people via air travel. 

Why should people fly in a Dreamliner instead of another aircraft?

The Dreamliner has won the IDEA international design award—it’s a feast for the eyes and a proven winner on the usability side as well. Not only that, the aircraft embeds the latest technology to redefine the flying experience from the passenger well-being standpoint. If you want a greater sense of spaciousness, this is your plane. If you want to feel connected to the flying experience, this is your plane. If all you really care about is knowing that you’ll have space for your bag, well, you’ll be more than satisfied. Our research has shown that passengers are willing to go out of their way to fly on the Dreamliner. This plane exceeds passengers’ expectations in so many ways. 

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