Bob Crandall, former head of American Airlines and an industry figurehead, said Boeing will suffer, but most airlines would not be overly fazed by delivery delays, as they can lease replacement jets and bill Boeing for it, or factor those costs into discounts on future plane purchases.
“It’s a shame, and will inconvenience airlines and passengers, and hurt Boeing financially. But progress and safety are the two games in play,” he said.
“They (Boeing) will fix the problem and get the planes back in the air. It will cost them money, but nobody in the aviation community will fault them,” he added. “Aviation progresses by constantly learning, and here the lesson is about the nature of lithium batteries.”
Favorable market conditions are helping Boeing and its rival Airbus sell and produce record numbers of jets, worth about $88 billion last year, said Richard Aboulafia, a senior aerospace analyst at the Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia.
High oil prices are prompting airlines to order new fuel-efficient planes, and low interest rates make the purchases easier to finance them and make the loans attractive to investors looking for yield. “You could not ask for those three variables to get any better for airplane output,” he said. But, he added, it’s unclear how long it will last.
The U.S. and Japanese investigations into burning lithium batteries are moving slowly, and there is no sign of a resolution.
The longer that goes on, the longer deliveries are pushed back. More importantly, it suggests that the work Boeing will have to do to rectify battery problems on the more than 100 Dreamliners it has already produced could be significant and will hamper its efforts to ramp up production.