February 21, 2013
United Continental Holdings said on Thursday it was taking Boeing Co’s grounded 787 Dreamliner out of its flying plans through June 5, except for a Denver-to-Tokyo route scheduled for a tentative launch in May.
Meanwhile, Japanese investigators studying fuel leaks on the 787 found a problem with the paint on equipment controlling the fuel-tank valve, the Nikkei news service reported, citing people familiar with the details.
United’s decision to mostly exclude the 787 from its schedule until June comes as other airlines that have 787s are setting schedules for coming months while still uncertain about when the plane will be able to resume service.
The Dreamliner fleet has been grounded for the past five weeks after batteries burned on two planes in January. Boeing is due to meet with the head of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Friday to present measures designed to prevent such failures, a source told Reuters, even though the root cause of the problem has not been determined.
United spokeswoman Christen David said in a statement on Thursday that the carrier’s Denver to Tokyo Narita International route, originally set to start March 31, had been postponed to May 12. The launch would ultimately depend on a successful resolution of the safety incidents that have grounded the 787. Other service with the 787 won’t resume until after June 5, David said.
“We are taking the 787 out of our schedule through June 5, except for Denver-Narita, which will tentatively launch on May 12,” United’s statement said.
Boeing was not immediately available for comment.
United’s statement doesn’t mean that the 787 won’t be ready to fly again before June 5, said Carter Leake, an analyst at BB&T Capital Markets.
Rather, it means United won’t put the jet into service before then. If the plane is available sooner, but United can’t use it on its scheduled routes, Boeing likely would have to pay United compensation that Leake estimates at about $800,000 a month, based on lease rates.