Inaugural United Boeing 787 Flight: Post-Arrival

Trip Start Nov 03, 2012
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Trip End Nov 06, 2012


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Flag of United States  , Illinois
Sunday, November 4, 2012

I arrived into ORD Gate C20 at 9:45 a.m. aboard United Airlines Flight 1116 from IAH, the inaugural passenger flight of United's Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The gate was crammed with customers waiting to take the 787 back to Houston, United employees, and journalists.

A similar stage with 787 backdrop that was set up at the gate in Houston was also here in Chicago. A brief post-arrival ceremony took place at 10:00 a.m. Charles Duncan, United’s vice president of operations at ORD, spoke first, followed by United President & CEO Jeff Smisek and then the captain of the first flight. Smisek repeated some of the remarks he made before departure in Houston. He called the Dreamliner "an amazing airplane" and said his first impressions were that the ride was quiet, comfortable, and smooth.

“This is a day we waited a long time for,” Smisek said. “I will tell you: The wait was absolutely worth it.”

Capt. Jim Starley said the Dreamliner is absolutely revolutionary for the aviation industry. He praised the cockpit design and the jet’s fuel efficiency. The captain said the autopilot was disengaged at 4,000 feet and he landed the 787 manually.

“A pilot just can’t have more fun than I just had bringing it in,” Starley said. “It’s a delight to bring the Dreamliner to you. Come fly with us. It’s a great product. I know everybody will enjoy it.” (See below for a video of Smisek and Starley’s remarks.)

After the ceremony concluded, Smisek posed for photos in the boarding lounge and did interviews with the media while the flight crew stood for photos on the stage. I was expecting a spread of food in the gate area as there had been in Houston – a cake at minimum – but there was nothing!

At 10:27 a.m., the system showed eight unreserved seats and I’m #25 of 52 passengers checked in on the standby list for the second 787 flight to Houston (Flight 1510). I had hoped to fly back to IAH on the Dreamliner, then onward on the third flight to LAX and back to Houston again on the fourth departure to complete the plane’s first day of revenue service. It was a miracle I snagged a seat on the inaugural flight after several passengers did not show up. I was not to be so lucky the second time around.

Boarding for Flight 1510 began at 10:44. Excited passengers about to take their maiden Dreamliner flight lined up to get on board. Everybody but two customers showed up for this flight – only 10 standbys were accommodated. I ended up #15 on the list of 36 standbys who were unable to get a seat. Oh well. I was so thrilled to have made it aboard the inaugural flight, it wasn’t a huge disappointment to miss the second departure.

I walked to the food court adjacent to Gate C20 to position myself to photograph and video the Dreamliner’s departure. I had a fantastic view as the Boeing 787 departed 11 minutes late at 11:32 and taxied out of sight at 11:40.
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