Carrying 186 passengers, including the chairmen and CEO’s of United Airlines and Boeing, the Dreamliner made an uneventful return to service in the United States.
“It’s great to have the Dreamliner back in service,” said United CEO Jeff Smisek as he sat in United’s Economy Plus section of seats alongside Boeing CEO Jim McNerney.
“It’s taken a while, but the 787 is back and on its way to fulfilling its promise,” said McNerney.
The United flight from Houston to Chicago comes after 123 days where the Dreamliner was grounded by the FAA and then undergoing repairs to fix its battery system.
Passengers Not Worried
Ever since two Dreamliners caught fire in January, there’s been widespread speculation passengers would avoid flying on the plane when it returned to service.
As the United plane took off then cruised at 41,000 feet, few, if any of the passengers on board seemed worried the Dreamliner batteries might have a problem.
“I’m not worried at all,” said Augustin Mason, an executive from Chicago.
Mike Morgan from Oklahoma City specifically booked this Dreamliner flight, “I missed out on the first 787 flight in November. I have no worries about this plane.”
“I know it’s a safe plane,” said Linda Bass as she sat in her business class seat eating a salad for lunch.
45 of 50 Dreamliners Fixed
This is the first of six United Dreamliners to be retrofitted with a new battery system.
It includes greater space between battery cells to prevent them from catching fire. If the re-designed battery does catch on fire, it is now encased in steel box to prevent the fire from spreading.
There is also ventilation leading from the steel box to outside the Dreamliner so any smoke from a fire goes outside the 787 and not into the cabin.
“The battery system so far has been squawk free,” said Boeing CEO McNerney. “I think we have normal teething problems that are consistent with new airplanes.”
As McNerney sat in his seat handling questions from reporters, passengers on the flight stopped by to congratulate him for getting the Dreamliner back in service.
Boeing is currently building seven Dreamliners per month and plans to deliver at least sixty this year. As Boeing shares have soared in the last two months some have speculated Boeing may deliver more than sixty 787s this year.
(Read More: Boeing CEO Sees Little Dreamliner Fallout)
For now, McNerney isn’t changing his guidance, “The production system is working well, we kept it going throughout the battery fix,” said McNerney. “It is nice to have analysts conjure up upside as they look at our company, we love it.”
New 787 Markets for United
For United CEO Jeff Smisek, putting six Dreamliners back in service means the airline can follow through on launching service to new international markets, including Denver to Tokyo and Houston to Lagos, Nigeria.
The United CEO was all smiles as he greeted passengers on the flight. At one point he got on the planes p.a. system to thank passengers for being on the re-launch of the 787.
“I want to thank you for flying with us today as we fly this fabulous plane,” Smisek said over the speaker.