After 123 days being grounded and then repaired to ensure its battery systems do not catch fire, Boeing 787 Dreamliners are about to once again make commercial flight in the United States.
A United Airlines 787 will fly from Houston to Chicago Monday morning carrying more than 250 passengers, including the CEO's of United and Boeing.
"Jim McNerney [Boeing Chief Executive Officer] and I are flying today from Houston to Chicago on flight number one, which is putting the airplane back in service," CEO Jeff Smisek told CNBC Monday.
Smisek add that he is confident the aircraft is safe. "Boeing and the FAA have worked together very closely to make this an absolutely safe aircraft, and they have solved all the issues with the battery—not only with containment, venting and everything else."
Given the massive amount of negative publicity, including video of one Dreamliner with smoke drifting out of it in January, there are many wondering if people will be afraid to fly the plane.
"There may be some who are concerned about flying on the 787, but I think they are far and few in between," said Henry Harteveldt, airline analyst with Hudson Crossing. "It is a great airplane. It has a lot of passenger pleasing features so there are a lot of people who will be looking for it."
The United 787 has a new battery system that includes greater space between battery cells to prevent them from catching fire. If the re-designed battery does catch on fire, it is now encased in steel box to prevent the fire from spreading. There is also ventilation leading from the steel box to outside the Dreamliner so any smoke from a fire goes outside the 787 and not into the cabin.
Jim McNerney, Boeing Chief Executive Officer, told CNBC Monday that the battery system so far has been "squawk free," and that Boeing has had "normal teething problems that are consistent with new airplanes."
McNerney added Monday's flight means a return to service of the fleet. "We now got 45 of the 50 planes in the fleet retrofitted with the new battery system. United will be the fifth airline to re-enter service...I'm excited to be on the airplane, just like anybody else."
United's Costly 787 Wait
For United Airlines, the FAA grounding the 787 on January 17th created a costly headache for the airline. The airline had six Dreamliners it immediately pulled from its schedule.
The impact included the airline taking an $11 million charge in the first quarter due to lost revenue. Instead of flying the 787 on flights between Shanghai and Los Angeles, the carrier had to fly more costly 777 planes. United also had to postpone start of service between Denver and Tokyo.
But more than that, the 787 grounding erased any marketing edge United had over other U.S. carriers who will not fly the Dreamliner for years. For months leading up to taking delivery of its first 787 late last year United ran promotional videos at the start if every flight touting the Dreamliner as a plane that would transform the flying experience.
In every one of those videos CEO Jeff Smisek talked about how he couldn't wait for United customers to enjoy flying in a 787. After the grounding, Smisek was left answering reporter and analyst questions about whether he still had confidence in the plane. To his credit, Smisek never changed his tune.
(Read More: Boeing CEO Sees Little Dreamliner Fallout)
We'll never know how much of a true game changer a problem free launch of the 787 would have been for United in terms of marketing appeal. Given the grounding and negative publicity, it won't be surprising if the airline shelves any marketing plans it once had to play up the fact it is flying the 787 long before other U.S. carriers.