United returns 787s to revenue service

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United Airlines resumed revenue flights on its fleet of Boeing 787-8 aircraft today, a little more than a month since the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cleared the type to return to service.

Flight UA1 departed Houston Intercontinental airport at 11:00 local time and arrived at Chicago O'Hare International at 13:20 local time. A second flight, United 80, departed Houston at 11:30 local time for Newark Liberty International.

The inaugural flight was operated by N27903, which was delivered to United in December 2012, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online database.

"We are delighted to have the 787 back in service," says Jeff Smisek, chairman, president and chief executive of United, in Houston before the flight. "It's a terrific airplane. [But] it was a fairly expensive piece of sculpture to have on the ground."

He says that modifications have been completed on four of the airline's six 787s, with the remaining two scheduled to be complete by 24 May.

Ron Baur, vice-president of fleet at United, says that the airline has not discussed compensation for the four-month grounding with Boeing.

Michael Sinnett, vice-president and chief project engineer for the 787 programme, declines to comment on any possible compensation

"We are very sorry about the delay," says James McNerney, chairman and, president and chief executive of Boeing, in Houston today. "It has been solved by some of the technology work arounds that we've had to recommend over the past month or two. But the promise of this airplane remains unchanged."

The FAA approved the type's return to service on 19 April with three Boeing-recommended modifications to protect against short-circuits and fires in its lithium ion batteries.

United plans to return all of its 787s to service within the next month. Service will initially be between Houston and its other domestic hubs, including Chicago, Denver, Newark and San Francisco.

New nonstop flights between Denver and Tokyo Narita - United's first international service on the aircraft since the grounding - will begin on 10 June.

The FAA grounded the 787 on 16 January after two separate battery incidents on aircraft operated by All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines.