Prolonged Dreamliner grounding is not good news for Boeing and its customers

Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

ACCORDING to Japan’s transport ministry, airline safety inspectors have found no faults with the battery used on Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The new aircraft experienced a string of issues, culminating in a fire incident aboard a Japan Airlines aircraft at Boston’s Logan International Airport (USA) that led to the fleet’s grounding by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). (See Dreamliner: Not quite a dream start, Jan 17, 2013).

With the latest findings that put to rest the initial suspicion that the Dreamliner’s problems had to do with the battery, it opens up new concerns that can only suggest that the problem may be all that more serious because of its uncertainty. For now, attention has shifted to the electrical system that monitors battery voltage, charging and temperature.

Japanese transport ministry official Shigeru Takano said: “We have found no major quality or technical problem (with the lithium-ion batteries). We are looking into affiliated parts makers.”

This is not good news for Boeing as it may mean going back to the drawing board, delays in aircraft deliveries even though Boeing has said it would not stop making the planes pending outcome of the investigations, and loss of potential, even actual, orders. It may be pressed into making higher compensatory payments to the affected airlines.

Neither is it good news for airline owners of the Dreamliner, including potential owners. The grounding will now be longer than expected – longer than what most of the airlines have originally foreseen in their schedule adjustment to last end-January. While the operations of most of them are not expected to be widely affected in the short term, a longer delay can means lost opportunities, reduced clientele and delayed launches of new routes and destinations. For now, most of them may easily replace the Dreamliner operations with other aircraft still within their fleet, and for many of them it is comparatively a small number.

However, All Nippon Airways which owns 24 of the world’s 50 operating Dreamliner aircraft is likely to be the most hurt even as it insisted – for now – the impact on its profits so far is minimal and did not foresee a significant dent in its bottom line. ANA senior vice president Shinzo Shimizu said “we think the impact isn’t so big” that it required the airline to undertake a review of its strategies. The airline said it already has a contingency plan to deal with a potential prolonged grounding. The Japanese carrier has cancelled its newly launched flight from Tokyo to San Jose along with some flights to Seattle in the USA.

So often has it been said that the longer an aircraft sits on the ground, the more money an airline loses.


About David Leo
David Leo has more than 30 years of aviation experience, having served in senior management in one of the world's best airlines and airports. He continues to maintain a keen interest in the business, writes freelance and provides consultancy services in the field.

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