Boeing Co told two European airlines their deliveries of 787 Dreamliner jets would be delayed, underlining the uncertainty surrounding the future of the plane and the mounting costs related to its grounding.
The new lightweight, carbon-composite aircraft were grounded worldwide on Jan. 16 after a series of battery incidents, including a fire on-board a parked 787 in Boston and an in-flight problem on a plane in Japan.
Since then, conditions have grown crowded at Paine Field, the airport next to Boeing’s Everett, Washington, widebody plant where planes being prepared for delivery are parked.
Ten apparently finished and painted 787s flanked the runway on Thursday, compared with six on Jan. 17. Thomson Airways, owned by Britain’s TUI Travel, said delivery of its first Dreamliner, originally scheduled for the end of this month, had been “moved out of the month” and it had not been given a new delivery date. There are two Thomson planes among the 10 idling at Paine Field.
Norwegian Air Shuttle, meanwhile, said it had been notified by Boeing that its delivery schedule was at risk because of an investigation by the US National Transportation Safety Board into the aircraft. The extent of the possible delay was not yet known.
Both airlines said that they were making backup plans, with the Nordic carrier saying that it would lease aircraft if the 787 was not delivered in time for its long-haul service.
Separately, British Airways, owned by International Airlines Group, said it was in discussions with Boeing, but that the first of its 787 planes was still scheduled to be delivered in May. Virgin Atlantic said delivery of its 16 Dreamliners starting in the summer next year was unchanged.
Boeing’s shares fell 1 percent on Friday to US$76.65, having closed higher for five straight trading days.
The one glimmer of hope was news late on Thursday that the US Federal Aviation Administration would let Boeing conduct test flights of the 787 to study the battery question.
Shares of All Nippon Airways Co Ltd and Japan Airlines Co Ltd rose sharply on the news, outperforming the broader market. The two Japanese airlines operate nearly half of the 50 Dreamliners in service.
ANA said last week that it had lost around US$15 million in revenue as a result of the Dreamliner grounding, while JAL said the idling of the passenger jets would shave US$7.6 million from its operating profit in the year to the end of March.