United Airlines to return all Boeing 787s to service this week


United Airlines said on Monday it expects to have its entire fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners back in service this week, as the airline's first flight with the new jetliner in four months landed safely in Chicago.

"Every new airplane has issues," United CEO Jeff Smisek said after the flight landed ahead of schedule. "We've worked with Boeing to fix them. We're very confident."

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Smisek and Boeing CEO Jim McNerney were on the flight from Houston on Monday. Regulators grounded the Dreamliner worldwide on January 16 after batteries burned on two jets, prompting Boeing to redesign the battery system.

The Dreamliner is the first aircraft to use an extensive electrical system to replace hydraulics and to use a carbon fiber composite structure. It is expected to burn 20 percent less fuel, offer more cabin comfort for passengers than traditional jets and is a game-changer for airlines and Boeing's competition with European plane maker Airbus .

Smisek said the return to service of United's fleet of six 787s will allow it to operate additional flights between Houston and other domestic hub cities, including Chicago, Newark and Denver.

Bill Blocker, captain on the 787 flight, said the aircraft flew without any incidents.

"The 787 is not built for short flights," he said. "The composite structure makes the aircraft lighter and more fuel efficient and ... smoother ride."

(Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Chicago; Writing by Alwyn Scott. Editing by Andre Grenon)