News / USA

Boeing's Dreamliner Woes Disrupt Some Travel; Airlines Upset

Passengers walk away from ANA's Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane after it made an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport, western Japan, Jan. 16, 2013.Passengers walk away from ANA's Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane after it made an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport, western Japan, Jan. 16, 2013.
x
Passengers walk away from ANA's Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane after it made an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport, western Japan, Jan. 16, 2013.
Passengers walk away from ANA's Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane after it made an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport, western Japan, Jan. 16, 2013.
International airlines have suspended their entire fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners as regulators investigate a fire risk linked to a recent series of battery problems.

The world's 50 Dreamliners were grounded indefinitely on Wednesday and Thursday, forcing their carriers to rearrange dozens of flights, and prompting some to call for compensation from the U.S. aerospace giant.

Japanese airlines ANA and JAL have kept their 24 Dreamliners on the ground since Wednesday, after an ANA 787 on a domestic flight made an emergency landing due to an overheated battery that leaked a flammable fluid. Nine days earlier, a battery caught fire on a JAL 787 parked in Boston.

Late Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration ordered United Airlines to suspend flights by its six Dreamliners until the fire risk is resolved. The action sparked similar action by the other 787 operators: Air India, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Chile-based LAN Airlines and LOT Polish Airlines.

Flight disruptions

Peter Goelz, a Washington-based public relations specialist for major airlines, said he expects the global 787 fleet to be grounded for at least one or two weeks while investigators try to figure out why the jet's lithium-ion batteries are overheating.

Speaking to AlHurra television, O'Neill and Associates executive Goelz said the main impact will be on Japanese carriers' transoceanic flights to the United States and Europe.

Aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia said cancellations of routes such as Tokyo to Boston will force some travelers to transit through hubs, a detour that the long-haul Dreamliner was meant to avoid.

"If the grounding persists for more than a few weeks, you will see more older aircraft come back into the mix," said Aboulafia, an executive at Fairfax, Virginia-based Teal Group Corporation.

Seeking damages

Two Dreamliner carriers intend to ask Boeing to compensate them for the groundings.

Indian Aviation Minister Ajit Singh told television network NDTV that New Delhi will seek reimbursement for state-owned Air India, which operates six of the jets. Also Thursday, LOT Polish Airlines deputy chief Tomasz Balcerzak said Poland's main carrier will file for compensation in "due course."

Airlines' contracts with aircraft builders such as Boeing are confidential, but they typically include guarantees of compensation in cases of mechanical flaws.

Aboulafia said delays in delivering 787s also have forced Boeing to pay billions of dollars in penalties to customers in the past few years.

"There is no doubt that there is tension. But if Boeing works with the airlines to fix the problems, all will be forgiven and the Dreamliner will enter service as planned."

In a statement released Wednesday, Boeing chief executive Jim McNerney expressed "deep regret" for the inconvenience caused to airlines and passengers. He also said Boeing is "confident" in the Dreamliner's "overall integrity" and promised to take "every necessary step" to ensure safety and return the jet to service.

Maintaining loyalty

Boeing is under contract to deliver another 798 Dreamliners to various airlines in the coming years. In a boost for the aircraft maker, several customers reaffirmed their orders on Wednesday, including Australia's Qantas, British Airways and Singapore Airlines.

Mike Mecham, senior editor of Aviation Week & Space Technology , said he is not surprised by the expressions of support.

"If you go back four years, when Boeing's manufacturing program started to fall behind schedule, it simply did not lose customers," he said. "Some dropped 787 orders for financial reasons because there was an economic downturn. But they remained confident in the airplane."

Mecham also said teething problems with new commercial planes are seen as relatively normal.

"Obviously if you have hot batteries and you are getting (burning) smells in cabins, then that is a pretty significant teething problem. But, people are accustomed to difficulties with new, complex aircraft. So I think airlines have a pretty high tolerance level."

Production fallout

Boeing hopes to speed up its production of Dreamliners to 10 per month by the end of this year, from a rate of five per month last November. Aboulafia said the probable need to modify the jet makes that target unlikely.  

"We are going to have some kind of slowdown. Last year, production was unexpectedly high. Boeing got 46 Dreamliners out of the door, but perhaps they should have taken a bit more time and made certain that all the quirks were ironed out."

A slowdown could affect some of the more than 50 foreign companies that supplied Boeing with the Dreamliner's engine, fuselage, wings, entry doors and landing gear and other parts.
787 Dreamliner, Parts Suppliers787 Dreamliner, Parts Suppliers
x
787 Dreamliner, Parts Suppliers
787 Dreamliner, Parts Suppliers

Boeing's financial cost from slowing production and grounded planes likely will remain unclear until the causes of 787 mishaps are determined.

Beating the competition

Prior to those incidents, Boeing had a successful 2012, overtaking main rival Airbus in total sales and deliveries of commercial planes for the first time in years. Boeing announces its October to December results on January 30.

Aboulafia predicted Boeing will report a "fantastic" quarter based on a "solid" output of commercial planes and resilient U.S. government spending on its military products.

"But, a shadow will be cast over the results by the Dreamliner experience," he said.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

Iraqi Kurd President Urges World Community to Protect Syrian City

Islamic State fighters are besieging Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, after seizing at least 21 surrounding villages in a major assault against city on Syria's northern border with Turkey More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid