Dreamliner’s First Flight After Grounding Sees No Lack Of Passengers

Today, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner took off in Houston to fly to Chicago. It was the first time United Airlines operated a Dreamliner since a battery-failure grounded it in January. If people are worried about flying the Dreamliner, it doesn't show in the number of passengers.

During a take-off ceremony at Gate E-7 at Bush Intercontinental Airport, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney assured the audience that safety is the company’s number one concern.

“We are very sorry about the delay that has been caused by some of the technology workarounds that we’ve had to implement over the last month or two. But the promise of this airplane remains unchanged. We are absolutely confident of that, number one. And even more importantly, we are confident in the safety of this airplane. Safety means everything to us.”

The Federal Aviation Administration grounded all Boeing 787 Dreamliners in January after a battery caught fire on a plane parked at Boston’s Logan Airport. 

United is currently the only U.S. airline that’s operating 787s. Today’s trip was the first U.S. domestic flight for the Dreamliner after the grounding. Starting next month the fleet will be used for international flights, including from Houston to London.

United CEO Jeff Smisek says he’s “delighted” to be able to fly the Dreamliner again and that United’s customers love the plane.

“If you want to be the world’s leading airline, which is what we at United (are) working for, you’ve got to have the world’s leading airplane – and the 787 Dreamliner is exactly that.”

Despite some people’s concerns about flying on a 787 after the battery fire, United CFO John Rainey says the flight was pretty much full.

“This is not really a peak time, 11 o’clock on a Monday, and the flights on either side of this are not necessarily full, so we’re seeing a little bit of demand just for this flight itself.”

He says overall bookings at United are up slightly from the same period last year.

Brady Stevens was one of the passengers on the flight to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. He says he’s not worried.

“I’ve been on it a couple of times so far before the issue that they had and they took it out of the sky but yeah, I don’t have any issues with that.”

Imam Anerin and his family booked a flight on the Dreamliner about six months ago to go to Tokyo from Houston. But they changed it after hearing about the burned battery, so they were flying on a 777 from a different gate.

“Yeah, we were excited. It’s just something that, you know, the newer plane, but then we looked it up and, you know, they were having trouble so we changed the flight.”

As for the Dreamliner, it took off on time from Houston and completed its flight to Chicago in two hours and 20 minutes.



Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter.Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters and the Houston Press Club.Florian is a native of Germany. His studies in Leipzig...

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