May 20, 2013 at 6:57 PM ET
Aboard a Boeing Dreamliner, passengers calmly ate lunch salad, apparently unfazed that four months earlier, the entire fleet of 787s had been grounded because two batteries caught fire during flight.
"I'm not worried at all," said Augustin Mason, an executive from Chicago.
Mike Morgan from Oklahoma City said he specifically booked this Dreamliner flight: "I missed out on the first 787 flight in November,” he said. “I have no worries about this plane."
In business class, Linda Bass ate her salad. “I know it’s a safe plane,” she said.
Carrying 186 passengers, including the Chairmen and CEOs of United Airlines and Boeing, the Dreamliner returned to service in the U.S. on Monday in a flight from Houston to Chicago.
"It's great to have the Dreamliner back in service," said United CEO Jeff Smisek as he sat in United's Economy Plus section of seats alongside Boeing CEO Jim McNerney.
"It's taken a while, but the 787 is back and on its way to fulfilling its promise," McNerney said.
After two Dreamliners caught fire in January, some speculated passengers would avoid flying aboard the plane when it returned to service.
This is the first of six United Dreamliners retrofitted with a new battery system, which includes greater space between battery cells to prevent them from catching fire. If the re-designed battery does catch on fire, the steel box encasing it would prevent the fire from spreading.
Ventilation leads from the steel box to outside the plane, so any smoke from a fire leaves the plane instead of permeating the cabin.
"The battery system so far has been squawk free," Boeing CEO McNerney said. "I think we have normal teething problems that are consistent with new airplanes."
(Read More:Boeing CEO Sees Little Dreamliner Fallout)
As McNerney answered reporter questions from his seat, passengers stopped by to congratulate him on getting the Dreamliner back in service.
Boeing aims to build seven Dreamliners a month and to deliver at least sixty this year. As Boeing shares have soared in the last two months, some say Boeing may deliver more than sixty 787s this year.
"The production system is working well, we kept it going throughout the battery fix," McNerney said. "It is nice to have analysts conjure up upside as they look at our company. We love it."
For United CEO Smisek, returning six Dreamliners to service means the airline can follow through on expanding to international markets, including Denver to Tokyo and Houston to Lagos, Nigeria.
Smisek was all smiles as he greeted passengers on Monday’s flight. At one point he got on the plane’s speaker system to thank passengers for being on the re-launch of the 787.
"I want to thank you for flying with us today as we fly this fabulous plane," he said.
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