Boeing tells airlines that Dreamliner deliveries could be delayed

02/09/2013 7:20 AM

02/09/2013 7:20 AM

Boeing has told airlines expecting to receive new 787 Dreamliners in coming months that deliveries may be late as regulators investigate overheating batteries that prompted the model’s grounding worldwide.

British tour operator Thomson Airways said it’s arranging to use other planes to serve Florida and Mexico if its first 787 is delayed beyond March. Norwegian Air Shuttle said the handover of an initial 787 in April may slide and that a second due in June may also be affected.

The 787 fleet has been sidelined since Jan. 16 following a lithium-ion battery fire on a Japan Airlines plane in Boston and an emergency landing by an All Nippon Airways plane in Japan. U.S. regulators said Thursday that Boeing can conduct test flights to help determine the cause, as evidence mounts that the battery may have to be redesigned.

“We have informed our customers expecting 787 deliveries in the near-term that those aircraft either have been or are at risk of being delayed,” the Chicago-based planemaker said in e-mailed comments. “Boeing deeply regrets the impact that recent events have had on the schedules of our customers and their passengers.”

Oslo-based Norwegian Air said in a statement that Boeing has not given it new handover dates or provided written confirmation of the holdups.

“Although a potential delay is completely out of our control, we would like to apologize in advance if the Dreamliner isn’t ready for Norwegian’s first long-haul flights,” Chief Executive Bjorn Kjos said in a statement.

As one of Boeing’s biggest European customers, Norwegian said it expects the manufacturer to do “everything in its power” to get the 787 ready for delivery as soon as possible. To allow for new services to New York and Bangkok, the carrier said it will obtain alternative aircraft through a leasing company for as long as three months.

Boeing said Friday it’s staying in close communication with its customers as it works to develop a plan to resume the 787 pipeline, adding that it doesn’t discuss specific deliveries. European safety officials are due to visit Boeing next week to review progress of the probe.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said Thursday that U.S. regulators’ assumptions in certifying the 787’s lithium-ion batteries “must be reconsidered” after investigators found that a short circuit in one cell set off a chain reaction that destroyed the unit.

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