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
News
US comedian Bill Mahr
people
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Sport
football
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
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
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Life and Style
Models – and musicians – on the catwalk in Dior Homme for the men’s 2015/16 fashion show in Paris
fashionAt this season's Paris shows, various labels played with the city boys' favourite
News
i100
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: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Ashdown Group: PHP Web Developer / Website Coordinator (PHP, JavaScript)

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: PHP Web...

Recruitment Genius: Estates Projects & Resources Manager

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in London, Manchester, Br...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us