On the Call: United Continental CEO Jeff Smisek
Worries about flaming batteries have grounded the world's Boeing 787s, including six owned by United Continental Holdings Inc.
Airlines that bought the new plane, including United, promoted its passenger-friendly comfort and fuel efficiency. But the plane's headlines lately have been negative, and some are starting to wonder how eager passengers will be to fly on the plane once it's cleared again for takeoff.
United CEO Jeff Smisek has committed billions of dollars to buying the 787, so one might expect him to be enthusiastic. On Thursday he said United has not gotten any guidance about how long the plane will be grounded.
Smisek said that once U.S. and Japanese regulators find the cause and Boeing Co. fixes it, "We're done. Because look, the aircraft is a terrific aircraft. And customers love the airplane. And I have no doubt that customers will flock back to that airplane as soon as we get it back up again.
"But this is a problem that Boeing and the regulatory authorities need to deal with, they should deal with it. We support them. We'll give them every bit of assistance that we possibly can, because we, too, want to get the airplane up and flying safely, and I'm confident that will occur ... It's a terrific airplane. Ask anybody who's flown that airplane. It's spectacular. And once this particular issue is solved, it's solved, and it's just a matter of whatever time it takes to solve it."