New blow for Boeing as airlines seek compensation over Dreamliner

 

Boeing’s nightmare over its new Dreamliner jet grew today as airlines began clamouring for compensation that is likely to hit millions of dollars.

The planemaker’s flagship 787 has now been grounded for 19 days, and Japan Airlines warned it is to start talks with Boeing about recouping costs.

The carrier, which owns seven Dreamliners, said that having them grounded would slice almost $8 million (£5 million) from its earnings to the end of March.

“The important thing now is getting the 787 flying again safely as soon as we can,” JAL president Yoshiharu Ueki said. “However, when the situation  has settled down, we can and are  preparing to begin those [compensation] talks.”

Ueki said he still backed the aircraft, despite its current inability to fly, adding that it should stay at the centre of the airline’s fleet strategy.

“It’s a shame about the battery, but it is a wonderful aircraft,” Ueki said.

The talk of payouts emerged as safety investigators in Japan and the US continue to attempt to find the cause of major problems with the plane’s lithium-ion batteries, which caught fire on a JAL 787 in Boston, with the flames on board taking firefighters almost 40 minutes to extinguish.

Another battery problem on an  All Nippon Airways flight in  Japan forced pilots to make an emergency landing.

ANA, Japan Airline’s domestic rival, which has 17 new Dreamliners — more than any other airline — has warned that the 787’s grounding knocked 1.4 billion yen (£9.6 million) off its revenues in January alone, when it had to cancel 459 flights. Its 787 flight cancellations are set to hit a total of 830 up to 18 February.

ANA chief financial officer Kiyoshi Tonomoto said: “We will negotiate with Boeing. We are now focusing on assuring safety for our customers.”

US aviation regulators have said there’s no urgency to get the 787 back in the skies. “We’re not feeling any pressure,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said yesterday. “We’re going to get this right. We have to get this right.”

Boeing can, however, take some relief after major airlines renewed their support to the scandal-hit jet.

James Hogan, chief executive of Etihad Airways, which has ordered 41 Dreamliners that are due to start  being delivered by the end of next year, said: “The 787s are a great aircraft, Boeing will resolve these issues with the battery.”

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