United Airlines made the first U.S. commercial airline flight of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner Sunday, and the Chicago-based airline will be the North American launch customer for the next-generation airliner.
The Dreamliner aircraft was based in Houston where it began a monthlong certification program to fly commercially, according to United Continental Holdings Inc., the airline’s parent company.
The jetliner flew from Houston to Chicago Sunday, where it will begin passenger service. The flight was packed with United executives and journalists.
“Many people from across the company put in a lot of work to help us induct and prepare to operate the 787, and I’m proud to share this important day with all of them,” said United CEO Jeffery Smisek.
United has ordered 50 Dreamliner aircraft, and has received delivery of two from the Chicago-based Boeing Co. The airline is expected to integrate the new aircrafts into its fleet over the next five to six years.
The airline is the first one in North America to operate the new jetliner, and will primarily use it to fly long-haul international flights.
Japan’s All Nippon Airways was Boeing’s global launch customer for the new Dreamliner.
Looking to Replace 747s?
United is also having discussions with Boeing’s competitor, EADS NV’s Airbus, about ordering its A350-1000 aircrafts to replace some of its aging Boeing 747 jets, according to a Bloomberg report citing insider sources familiar with such discussions.
Airbus is looking to deliver the planes by 2017, and experts say the deal will likely be a blow to Boeing, which has had a grip on the twin-engine airliner market for the past decade.
According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, United had 701 jetliners at the end of 2011. United is also the world’s biggest airliner by passenger traffic.
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