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Airlines await 787 battery resolution

By control on March 14, 2013

The waiting continues in the ongoing Boeing 787 battery saga. While Boeing received approval from the FAA on its plan to test and certify improvements to the plane’s battery system, the airlines that had taken delivery of 787s prior to its January grounding are playing a game of wait and see.

Some of the affected airlines have publicly stated that they will seek damages from Boeing at some point while others are mum on the topic.

LOT Polish Airlines, which has two Dreamliners, says it is in direct contact with Boeing in the search for a solution.

“We are aware that in result of FAA and EASA directives and grounding LOT’s Boeing 787, we will bear several costs connected as well with excluding 787s from the schedule, involving different types of aircraft to operations as well with rebuilding the image of our airline,” LOT said in a statement issued to Air Cargo World. “We are in the process of measuring these costs. In terms of 787s, LOT analyzes [its] contract with Boeing, as well collects all the costs of grounding two Boeing 787s.”

Ethiopian Airlines, which has four 787s in its fleet, issued an apology for inconvenience caused by the grounding to its customers in early March. The airline noted that it did not experience the battery problems prior to its removal of its four Dreamliners from operation Jan. 17.

“Since then, Boeing and the FAA have been working around the clock to find out the causes of the two incidents on the battery of the 787,” Ethiopian Airlines said in its statement issued by CEO Tewolde GebreMariam. “All of us here hope that the cause of the problem will be identified soon. We sincerely look forward to the opportunity of welcoming you again onboard the Dreamliner and provide you the wonderful Dreamliner experience that you deserve.”

All Nippon Airlines tells Air Cargo World that the 787 grounding has had a minimal effect on its cargo operations due to its rerouting and alternating of its flights. ANA announced that it has cancelled 787 flights through May 31.

The Japanese Transport Ministry is assisting airlines by exempting parking fees at Japanese Airports. ANA says this is a significant move.

“For 16 of our Dreamliners, which are currently grounded in Japan [one is parked at the Frankfurt Airport], it will be a daily savings of 300,000 yen ($3,129),” the airline said. “It is a significant exemption for ANA, and we truly appreciate the generosity offered by the government.”

ANA declined to comment about the possibility of seeking damages from Boeing.

Qatar Airways grounded its fleet of five 787 planes, according to Arabia Business.

Akbar Al Baker, the chief executive of Qatar Airways, said though the battery meltdowns were one-time events – not proof of an ongoing or deeper safety concern – the airline may seek compensation from Boeing over the 787 crisis, according to Reuters. Qatar Airways has five 787s.

"I still have confidence they will get the aircraft in the air in the not too distant future," he told a news conference at the ITB Berlin exhibition in early March. "But that doesn't mean I will not get compensation."

Mary Ryan, senior media relations specialist at United Airlines, wrote in an email that the airline’s cargo operations involving its six 787s will continue with other aircraft.

“We have the flexibility to use a mix of aircraft on our 787 routes while the aircraft remains under review,” she wrote. “This provides strong, consistent capacity options for our customers. For instance, we are using a Boeing 777 – an aircraft with excellent cargo capacity – on the Los Angeles-Tokyo Narita route.”

United has updated its schedule to show alternate aircraft in place of its 787s through June 5, according to the email. The airline will fly 777s on the two international 787 routes, Los Angeles to Shanghai and Houston to Lagos.

United believes that the 787 will eventually bounce back, Ryan wrote.

“We remain confident in the 787, believing that shippers will embrace the aircraft once it goes back into service because of its range and convenient, standard Boeing container configuration,” she wrote. “We are equally confident in Boeing’s ability to work with the FAA and the NTSB to address the issues covered by the air worthiness directive.”

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