Last week, I published a post detailing the resumption time lines of the 787 Dream liner which has been grounded since January 16 (my birthday) due to battery overheating. Since the time of the grounding, Boeing has began the process of installing modified batteries housed in a stainless steel box that will run at a much cooler temperature.
Additionally, there is a ventilation pipe that will lead directly from the box to the outside of the plane, such that in case of fire, smoke will not drift into the cabin and affect the fuselage of the plane.
With regards to the initial plans to send the 787 back into the air, it appears that I may have spoken too soon. According to Airline Business and Travel News (ABTN), a UK-based weekly publication, all eight operators of the 787 are hoping to resume services by early June.
This latest news piece contrasts with my earlier posting which detailed extensively drawn-out timelines for go-live. Some airlines, such as Ethiopian, had intentions to re-launch scheduled services as early as late April, whereas others, such as LOT Polish, planned to recommence services as far out as October.
However, the economic efficiencies of the Dream liner are so desperately needed right now by global carriers, that it seems like now is the time to say “Go” unanimously.
Last week, one of Ethiopian Airlines’ four grounded 787s operated a one-off operation to test out the newly-installed batter. The aircraft Ethiopian’s hub at Addis Ababa on Saturday, April 27 at 9:45 AM local time and successfully arrived in Nairobi, Kenya two hours later.
The following morning, Ethiopian again flew a revenue passenger flight on the 787 from Addis Ababa to Frankfurt. Below are screen shots of flight 706 on 28.4.13, courtesy of FlightTrack designed by Mobiata Travel Apps.
Screenshots of ET 0706 which flew from ADD to FRA on April 28, moved forward several weeks from an initially-scheduled launch date in June 2013.
Pleased with the results, Ethiopian pressed forward, and became the first “re-launch” 787 customer. By Monday, East African airline and Star Alliance member had loaded a 6-weekly 787 flights into the Global Distribution System scheduled to fly from ADD to London Heathrow starting on May 8, and added a third weekly flight to Toronto (via Rome westbound) on the 787 starting on June 19.
Doha-based Qatar Airways initially intended to re-launch services from Doha to Dubai on May 2, but moved those plans up a day and went live today. For both of these carriers, the 787 is basically being used in a nuclear arms race to reverse the nightmare that the Dreamliner has caused.
United Airlines, LAN Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines are taking a more precautionary approach and sticking with their originally planned schedules of late May (United) and early June (LAN, ANA and JAL). According to the article, ANA president Osamu Shinobe said,
We are pleased that the Federal Aviation Authority and Japan Civil Aviation Bureau are satisfied with Boeing’s plans to address the battery issues on the 787 and we are closely working with Boeing and our own engineers to undertake these improvements. Only when we are fully satisfied with the safety of our 787 will we return the aircraft to service.
It was also reported in a separate Reuters news story that the 787 groundings have cost JAL and ANA a combined USD $110 million in forgone profit, an expense that they may ask Boeing to shoulder in compensation. Further discussions with Boeing will resume once the commercial services are back and stabilized next month.
JAL had gone radio silent about the purported launch of its Tokyo-Helsinki flight that was supposed to start in March, but it is now confirmed that daily service will begin on July 1. OneWorld partner carrier Finnair also flies between Tokyo and Helsinki, and it is possible that, similar to British Airways and JAL, Finnair and JAL will pursue a joint venture agreement on this route.
Japan also announced that it will start Boeing 787 service from Tokyo to Sydney in December.
JAL revised 787 route map reflecting Sydney and Helsinki additions
Air India has gone in the reverse direction: domestic flights, scheduled to re-launch in mid-May, have been pushed back a week. International flights have also been pushed back from mid-May to June 1.
LOT Polish is sending its two 787s to Ethiopia for battery modifications and then plans to resume flights from Warsaw to Chicago on June 5.
Two new 787 operators, ThomsonFly and Norwegian, will also be joining the Dreamliner (re)-launch party this summer, and interestingly, neither of them are considered network carriers.
Leisure airline ThomsonFly of the United Kingdom will receive over a dozen 787s this month, with plans to launch services between Manchester, London Gatwick, East Midlands and Glasgow to Orlando (Sanford) and Cancun. Thomson will also add a flight from London Gatwick to Mauritius and Puerto Vallarta.
Thomson Airways initial 787 routes, according to airlineroute.net
Norwegian Air Shuttle, one of the most successful low-cost carriers in Europe, will enter into the long-haul services realm with the 787, using the Dream liner to launch services from each of its bases at Oslo and Stockholm to New York JFK and Bangkok, as well as from Oslo to Fort Lauderdale.
Norwegian Air Shuttle initial 787 routes, according to airlineroute.net
The value that these progressive movements will bring for global airlines cannot be underplayed, especially given that the busy summer travel season will soon be upon us. Traditionally, this is the most important quarter for airlines to achieve higher unit revenues relative to other points in the fiscal year. Keeping a lid on unit costs, secured via the re-advent of the 787, will provide much more relief to global airlines than one might think.