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More on the Costs of the 787 Grounding

With a fix finally in place for the 787’s troublesome battery system, and affected airlines gradually returning the retrofitted planes to service, the focus has turned to responsibility and accountability.

Although the specifics of the agreements between Boeing and airlines that operate the 787 may never be made public, some carriers have divulged their own assessments of the financial damage sustained as a result of the planes’ grounding, and confirmed that they expect to be compensated.

Extrapolating from the figures a few airlines have disclosed, it appears that Boeing could be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Qatar Airways has pegged the revenue loss from the three-month grounding of its 787s at $200 million, according to Reuters. The story states that the airline “will receive compensation from Boeing,” but details have yet to be decided.

Meanwhile, an AP story reports that the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines on Tuesday confirmed that his airline would also seek compensation from Boeing, although discussions had not yet begun. No dollar figures were given. Ethiopian operates four 787s.

Last week, in their respective reports on first-quarter operating results, Japanese carriers ANA and Japan Airlines estimated a combined $110 million in lost operating profits from the 787’s grounding.

United, the only U.S. 787 operator, has announced plans to return the plane to service on May 20, flying between Houston and Chicago. There’s been no public demand by United officials for compensation from Boeing, but it’s a safe bet that negotiations are underway behind closed doors.

Chronology of Dreamliner Issues, Events

  • On April 29, Ethiopian Airlines resumed 787 operations with a flight between Addis Ababa and Nairobi, the first commercial flight since the planes were grounded in January.
  • On April 19, the FAA approved Boeing’s proposed redesign of the 787’s battery systems, including a modified battery and new enclosure that vents gas and smoke to the plane’s exterior.
  • On February 9 and 11, Boeing completed two test flights, using one of six 787 test planes specially fitted with electronic tools to monitor and diagnose battery-related issues. Both flights were “uneventful.”
  • On January 16, the FAA ordered all U.S. Dreamliners gounded until the safety issued could be sorted out. The move prompted a worldwide grounding.
  • On January 15, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines suspended all 787 flights following a battery malfunction that resulted in an emergency landing.
  • At least partly in response to the service suspensions by Japanese carriers, Qatar Airways canceled a scheduled 787 flight from London to Doha.
  • On January 13, a fuel leak was discovered on a Japan Airlines 787 at Tokyo’s Narita Airport.
  • On January 11, the FAA announced that it would subject the 787 Dreamliner to an unusual post-launch “review.”
  • On January 7, a fire broke out on a Japan Airlines 787 in Boston.
  • A fire similar to the one in Boston had been reported during the 787’s testing phase in 2010.
  • In December, an electrical malfunction forced a United Airlines 787 to make an emergency landing.
  • Later that same month, United reported that the same issue had been discovered on a second Dreamliner.
  • Also in December, Qatar Airlines grounded one of its 787s because of electrical issues.
  • On December 5, the FAA ordered inspections of potential fuel-line leaks on all 787s.

About the 787 Dreamliner

The Dreamliner is Boeing’s most advanced airliner, featuring such cutting-edge technology as lithium-ion batteries and a composite-plastic body. The first 787 was received by ANA in September 2011, and since then 50 787s have been delivered to eight airline customers, including United. The company has taken orders for 844 Dreamliners, and Boeing hopes to sell as many as 5,000 during the lifetime of the plane.

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