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United Airlines says FAA cleared grounded Boeing 777s to fly again

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A United Airlines Holdings Inc. Boeing 777-200 aircraft on the tarmac at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

United Airlines said Tuesday that the Federal Aviation Administration has cleared the trail for the return of 52 Boeing 777s powered with Pratt & Whitney engines that were grounded after an engine failure in February 2021.

“Late last night, the FAA issued the ultimate paperwork on our Pratt & Whitney-powered triple sevens,” United’s chief industrial officer, Andrew Nocella, said at a Bank of America industry conference.

The planes represent 10% of United’s capability, “so it’s really, really material,” Nocella added. ‘You actually cannot rush safety.”

“The FAA approved the service bulletins that will probably be used to make the mandatory changes outlined within the Airworthiness Directives to the Boeing 777-200 with Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines,” the FAA said in a press release.

United last week said it plans to bring the planes back step by step once they were cleared, starting later this month, and later expand them to international routes.

The planes were grounded after certainly one of United’s 777-200s heading for Honolulu from Denver suffered an engine failure. It dropped debris in a residential area before returning to Denver’s foremost airport. No injuries were reported.

The planes’ return had been delayed through a minimum of May 13 from an expected return in April, CNBC reported last month.

United shares were sharply higher in premarket trading Tuesday after the carrier reported it expects second-quarter revenue per seat mile, a gauge of how much it’s bringing in for every seat it flies a mile, to rise as much as 25% over 2019, regardless that it could fly about 14% less.

The trend shows higher fares for travelers, who’ve returned in droves after two years of the Covid pandemic.

“We’re not seeing any signs of resistance to pricing,” United CEO Scott Kirby said in an interview Tueaday morning on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

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