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.
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
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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs