Shares in United Airlines soared more than two percent today after the company flew into aviation history by becoming the first US airline to fly paying passengers on Boeing’s new fuel-efficient 787 Dreamliner.
After a three-year delay due to production problems at Boeing, United Airlines landed its first domestic flight of the state-of-the-art Dreamliner at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported.
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Investors appeared to be as relieved as United Airlines chief executive Jeff Smisek, who was on the inaugural two-and-a-half-hour flight from Houston.
“It’s been a long haul to get here,” Smisek was quoted by the Chicago Tribune as saying.
In early trade, shares in United Airlines were up 2.18 percent at $20.16 in a weak market.
Smisek said the aircraft, which consumes 20 percent less fuel than a Boeing 777 and is cheaper to maintain, would begin flying between Denver and Tokyo early next year.
"If we flew the 777 on that route, we'd have our head handed to us. In terms of costs, it would never be worth it,” Smisek said, according to The Denver Post.
USA Today reported that the sold-out flight carried aviation enthusiasts, United Airlines employees, journalists and passengers who just wanted to be be to say they were on the first flight.
We were so excited, we all found it a bit difficult to sleep I believe so we were up and on the hotel shuttle van at 5 a.m," said Scott Shatzer, a Chicago resident on the inaugural flight with seven friends.
"It felt like we were kids going to Disney World for the first time I guess.”
Check out this time-lapse video showing the process of assembling and painting a United 787.