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Does United's First 787 Symbolize a New Beginning?

Stocks in this article: BA DAL UAL

One place where the positive glow from the 787's arrival flows through to employees is Houston, where many residents have been angry that the 2010 merger resulted in the loss of Continental's headquarters. United has said the 787s will be maintained at its Houston maintenance base. The carrier has about 12,000 employees in Houston.

"This sends a very good message to the community how important Houston is to United," said Stephanie Buchanan, the United vice president who oversees the Houston hub. "That's good for employees. It was hard for them to read the negativity. It felt to a lot of employees as if the city had turned against them.

The 219 passengers on the inaugural flight were a mix of media, airplane buffs, a few passengers flying standby who had somehow ended up on the flight, and United employees including Aram Gibson, a Tampa, Fla.-based reservations agent, who arranged his travel from Houston to Tampa so that he could make the inaugural flight.

"A merger can have growing pains, but we are working through them," Gibson said. "I've been with United/Continental for 24 years, and I've never been on an inaugural flight. Now, when I retire, I can say I was on this one."

In Houston, United Captain Michael Barksdale, a 34-year United employee who was scheduled to fly flight 1116 on Monday, came to the airport for the ceremony. Asked "how long have you been waiting to fly this airplane?" he responded, "Since I was a little boy."

-- Written by Ted Reed onboard the inaugural Houston-Chicago 787 flight

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

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