The Race to Relaunch the Dreamliner: Boeing “Ready for Challenge”

By Paul Riegler on 25 April 2013
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LOT Plans June Launch, Air India and Ethiopian to Start in April

A Dreamliner in ANA livery at Tokyo's Haneda Airport

A Dreamliner in ANA livery at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport

The Federal Aviation Administration issued an airworthiness directive to U.S. airlines on Thursday that will allow the Dreamliner to return to service.

The grounding of the high-tech plane on January 16, which has reportedly cost Boeing $600 million, may soon be over as Boeing enginers and airlines work around the clock to install the new battery system design in the 50 aircraft that have been sitting idle.

Boeing says it is ready for the challenge.  “We have a pretty high confidence level we can be through a majority of this in a few weeks,” said Jim McNerney, Boeing’s chief executive officer, during a call with investors and the media on Wednesday. “The 787 will return to flight with our continuing high confidence in its safety, reliability and overall integrity.”

Here’s an airline-by-airline look at the current situation.

Air India

Air India has a total of six Dreamliners and most were deployed on domestic or regional routes.  Air India officials expect the Directorate General of Civil Aviation or DGCA to issue approval within a week and flights will start immediately after the DGCA action.

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.  On Monday, it started to install the new systems on five planes.  The airline says that each retrofit takes roughly five days.  In order to put the Dreamliner back into service, ANA requires permission from the Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism Ministry.  The country’s Civil Aviation Bureau last week said it was in the final stages of completing its Dreamliner probe.  ANA says it expects to start offering Dreamliner service to passengers in June following several weeks of test flights.  Regarding the airline’s two U.S. Dreamliner routes from San Jose and Seattle, ANA also told Frequent Business Traveler late last week 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.   “Ethiopian Airlines will be the first airline company to resume 787 Dreamliner flights in the world. Saturday’s the date,” a senior Ethiopian Airlines source told the Reuters news agency Wednesday. “We’re flying to Nairobi, Kenya on the normal flight schedule.”

Japan Airlines

JAL was the second airline to fly the 787 and now has seven Dreamliners.  Like ANA, the airline is awaiting permission from regulators to resume flights and its aircraft are currently getting the battery fix.  “Plans for re-launching 787 schedules will start after an approval from Japan’s Civil Aviation Bureau is announced,” a JAL spokesperson told Frequent Business Traveler late last week.

LAN Airlines

LAN, the first airline in South America to fly the Dreamliner, only three of the new aircraft in its fleet.  The airline is planning to resume its Dreamliner service on June 1 but told reporters that “operation [of the Dreamliner] remains subject to change”.

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 of two planes was grounded. Nancy Vaughan, a spokesman for LOT, told Frequent Business Traveler on Thursday that the airline plans to begin service to Warsaw from Chicago and Toronto in June and New York-Warsaw flights in July.   The New York flight will utilize LOT’s third Dreamliner, which has not yet been delivered and was used for Boeing’s final FAA-mandated battery systems test earlier this month.

Qatar Airways

Qatar received its first Dreamliner November 12, 2012, and was operating it between its Doha hub and London Heathrow.  The airline currenty has five Dreamliners in its fleet. The airline’s CEO, Akbar Al Baker, told reporters on last week 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 six 787s in total.  United Airlines spokesperson Rahsaan Johnson told Frequent Business Traveler late last week that “[W]e 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 and domestic service on May 31 on its Denver-Houston route.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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