CHICAGO -- United Airlines is getting its 787s back in the air.
The planes are flying again after being grounded for four months because of smoldering batteries on 787s owned by other airlines. The incidents included an emergency landing of one plane, and a fire on another. Federal authorities lifted the grounding order on April 19 but it has taken Boeing, which makes the plane, and the airlines a few more weeks to fix most of them.
The incidents never caused any serious injuries. But the January grounding embarrassed Boeing and disrupted schedules at the eight airlines that were flying the planes. The company had delivered 50 of the planes worldwide.
United is the only U.S. airline currently flying the 787. The grounding forced it to delay planned international flights and reduced first-quarter earnings by $11 million. Other airlines, including Japan Airlines and South America’s LATAM Airlines Group, also said profit took a hit. LATAM said it still had to make payments on the plane and pay for crews and maintenance. It expects to resume flying soon.
United’s first 787 flight was scheduled to go from Houston to Chicago.
Passengers didn’t appear to be too worried. “We saw strong demand for the flight from the first weekend it opened for sale,” said United spokesman Christen David.
United is planning to use 787s on shorter domestic flights before resuming international flights on June 10 with new Denver-to-Tokyo service as well as temporary Houston-to-London flights. It’s adding flights to Tokyo, Shanghai, and Lagos, Nigeria, in August.