Airlines Prepare to Relaunch Their Dreamliners: ANA, Qatar, United Schedule First Flights

By Jeremy Del Nero on 10 April 2013
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ANA's Dreamliner in Seattle for launch flight in 2012

ANA’s Dreamliner in Seattle for launch flight in 2012

After the Boeing 787 Dreamliner successfully completed its final test flight last week, major operators of the aircraft have taken some preliminary steps that will lead towards getting their own Dreamliners back in the air.

Boeing completed the required testing of the Dreamliner’s redesigned battery system last Friday with two representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration on board a two-hour test flight.  The airframe maker said it will deliver the results of Friday’s flight and other recent ground and laboratory testing to the FAA “in the coming days.”

Since all of the testing methodology as well as specific criteria for passing were agreed upon in advance by the FAA, which also supervised all of the test flights, airlines are taking the statement by Boeing that the certification demonstration plan was “straightforward,” meaning that everything performed as expected, as a sign that formal approval isn’t far off.

One airline has 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.  Boeing has reportedly already sent several engineers to Japan, where its two largest Dreamliner customers are based, so that they can begin to implement the redesigned battery system once it is approved by regulators.

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 originally anticipated the resumption of flights this month, but now 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. Dreamliner flights are already listed on the airline’s schedule for that month. In order to reassure public concerns about safety issues, the first flights will transport cargo instead of  passengers.

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.  “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 on Wednesday.

LAN Airlines

LAN, the first airline in South America to fly the Dreamliner, 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.  The airline currenty has five Dreamliners in its fleet. The airline’s CEO, Akbar Al Baker, told reporters on Wednesday 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 on Wednesday 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.    Other changes are possible as well, Johnson said.  “We are in the process of formulating our domestic flying plans and will be making additional schedule changes as we gain visibility into the timeline for certification and modification work.”

The entire fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners has been grounded since January 16, after two highly-publicized fires relating to the plane’s lithium-ion batteries occurred.   Boeing has been working with its suppliers and the FAA on a fix round the clock since then and, presuming all goes as planned, travelers can expect to see all 50 Dreamliners back in service by the end of June.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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