Boeing and Airlines Start Dreamliner Retrofits: Airlines Schedule First Flights

By Paul Riegler on 19 April 2013
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Passengers will soon be entering a 787

Passengers will soon be entering a 787

Even before the Federal Aviation Administration announced its decision today to rescind the grounding of the 787 Dreamliner, Boeing and major operators of the aircraft had taken some steps that will lead towards getting their own Dreamliners back in the air.

Prior to the announcement, one airline had already said that it expects to have its Dreamliners in the air by the end of April, and others are accepting bookings on Dreamliner flights for May and June.  Earlier this month, Boeing began to deploy engineers to Japan, where its two largest Dreamliner customers are based, as well as to several other key customer locations, so that they could begin to implement the redesigned battery system once the fix was greenlighted by the FAA.  Boeing has indicated that it will more or less perform the modifications in the order in which the aircraft were originally delivered.

Now that that has happened, here’s an airline-by-airline look at the current situation.  If all goes as planned, travelers can expect to see all 50 Dreamliners back in service by the end of June.

Air India

Air India has a total of six Dreamliners and most were deployed on domestic or regional routes.  Air India officials originally anticipated the resumption of flights this month, but last week said they plan to reinstate Dreamliner service in May.

All Nippon Airways

ANA, the launch customer for the Dreamliner, started flying the 787 in late 2011 and currently has the largest fleet at 17 aircraft.  ANA has been providing its Dreamliner pilots with simulator training since the aircraft’s grounding and flight resumption simulator training is slated for mid-April to allow flights to resume in June. In order to reassure public concerns about safety issues, the first flights will transport cargo instead of  passengers.  An ANA spokesman told Frequent Business Traveler on Friday that the airline “continues to communicate closely with U.S. and Japanese authorities, as well as with Boeing, to ensure the safety of the aircraft.”  Japanese regulators indicated that they will not make an announcement about following in the FAA’s footsteps and allowing Japanese airlines to begin to fly the plane until the end of the coming week at the earliest. Regarding the airline’s two U.S. Dreamliner routes from San Jose and Seattle, ANA also told Frequent Business Traveler that it has not yet “determined the schedule [for the resumption of Dreamliner service] at this time.”

Ethiopian Airlines

Ethiopian was the first airline in Africa to receive a Dreamliner and has four in its fleet.  It has not yet made a public statement as to when it expects Dreamliner service to resume.

Japan Airlines

JAL was the second airline to fly the 787 and now has seven Dreamliners.  It only operates the aircraft on international routes.  A JAL spokesman could not be reached at deadline but the airline told Frequent Business Traveler that “[p]lans for re-launching 787 schedules will start after an approval from Japan’s Civil Aviation Bureau is announced” earlier this month.

LAN Airlines

LAN, the first airline in South America to fly the Dreamliner, has only three of the new aircraft in its fleet.  The airline has not announced any plans about projected dates for the resumption of Dreamliner flights.

LOT Polish Airlines

LOT, the first European airline to get the Dreamliner, had the distinction of flying is inaugural long-haul Dreamliner flight from Warsaw to Chicago on the day that the 787 fleet was grounded.  It was an undelivered LOT Dreamliner that Boeing used to test its battery issue fix, although LOT hasn’t stated anything official with respect to resuming Dreamliner flights.   In February, a LOT spokesperson told Frequent Business Traveler that the airline would not plan on resuming Dreamliner flights until October, to avoid further disruption of its summer schedule, regardless of when the grounding was lifted.

Qatar Airways

Qatar received its first Dreamliner November 12, 2012, and was operating it between its Doha hub and London Heathrow until mid January.  The airline currenty has five Dreamliners in its fleet. The airline’s CEO, Akbar Al Baker, told reporters on earlier this month that the airline would resume Dreamliner service by the end of April.

United Airlines

United Airlines is the only U.S. airline with a Dreamliner fleet, having acquired six 787s in total.  United Airlines spokesperson Rahsaan Johnson told Frequent Business Traveler today that “This is a good step forward. We are mapping out a return-to-service plan, and we look forward to getting our 787s back in the air.”  Earlier this month, he told Frequent Business Traveler that the airline is  “planning to begin international flying on the Denver-Narita route on June 10.”   United lists May 31 as the first day for a domestic revenue Dreamliner flight on its Denver-Houston route.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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