Travel plans wrecked as Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner fire closes Heathrow airport runways

Boeing shares tumble as second plane forced to return to Manchester

Thousands of passengers booked to fly to and from Heathrow airport have had their travel plans wrecked following a fire aboard a Boeing 787 on the ground.

The Ethiopian Airlines jet had arrived on a routine flight from Addis Ababa early in the morning, and was parked on a remote stand when fire broke out. While the blaze was extinguished, both runways were closed because of the lack of fire cover for arrivals and departures.

The closure lasted for over an hour. When the runways re-opened, Heathrow airport said: “Flights are now operating, but will be subject to delay”. On Saturday morning the airport warned there would be some cancellations and delays and advised travellers to check their flight status on its website.

A second 787 travelling from England to the US had to turn back after experiencing a technical issue. Thomson said that flight 126 travelling from Manchester Airport to Sanford, Florida had returned to Manchester "as a precautionary measure".

Both incidents occurred at one of the busiest times on one of the busiest days of the year. Dozens of flights were diverted to airports as far afield as Paris, Manchester and Edinburgh. British Airways, which operates the majority of flights at Heathrow, was affected more than other airlines, with arrivals from Europe and the US diverted to a range of airports including Gatwick, Bournemouth, Luton and Stansted.

With aircraft and crews out of position, the knock-on effects began at once. As the evening wore on, British Airways cancellations rose to more than 40 – and tempers rose among passengers on diverted aircraft at other airports. Paul Clifton, the transport correspondent for BBC South, was on board one of several planes diverted to Stansted. He tweeted: “My diverted BA flight has now been on ground at Stansted more than three hours with passengers not allowed off. Stansted should be ashamed.”.

Aer Lingus, Air France, KLM, Lufthansa and other airlines also cancelled flights.

Affected passengers do not automatically get booked on the next flight, but must instead hope for any spare seats on following departures; passengers holding confirmed tickets take priority.

With flights heavily booked with holidaymakers, the effects of the closure are likely to reverberate through the weekend.

Once services resumed, attention switched to the Ethiopian Airlines plane – and the crucial question of whether the fire was connected with a faulty battery.

The Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” has been lauded as the future of flying - with far better economic and environmental performance, and the ability to open new routes through a combination of fuel efficiency and ultra-long range.

Shares in Boeing fell 6.5 per cent to $99.58 following today's incidents.

Around 60 Boeing 787s are currently flying, but the aircraft has suffered a troubled gestation. The state-of-the-art aircraft was grounded for three months earlier this year because of a series of fires, including one that ignited aboard a Japan Airlines jet at Boston airport shortly after landing from Tokyo.

Investigators found that the revolutionary lithium ion batteries were prone to ignite. A replacement power source was eventually devised, manufactured, certified and installed.

The particular Boeing 787 involved in the Heathrow incident, named Queen of Sheba, was the first Dreamliner to fly commercially once the aircraft type was allowed back into the skies. Boeing executives flew to Addis Ababa for a ceremonial first flight to Nairobi in May.

Deliveries of the aircraft are running years behind schedule. The first UK airline to fly the jet, Thomson Airways, began long-haul services earlier this month – but suffered an unrelated technical problem on a 787 soon after take-off from Manchester, destination Sanford in Florida. As a precaution, the crew dumped fuel over the Irish Sea and returned to Manchester.

British Airways took delivery of its first 787s late last month. The jets are due to enter service between Heathrow and Toronto in September, and to New York’s Newark airport in October. Virgin Atlantic also has 787s on order.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge face-off in the final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture