United Continental Holdings Inc. took Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliner off its flight schedule for an additional two months, through June 5, as the planemaker seeks to fix the grounded jet’s batteries.
The only exception would be to use the 787 on a new route between Denver and Tokyo if the jet is cleared to resume flights by May 12, the new start date for that service, said Christen David, a United spokeswoman. The Chicago-based carrier had planned to begin the flight on March 31.
Boeing is poised to present a battery redesign to satisfy regulators’ safety concerns and get the plane back in the air within weeks, people familiar with the matter said. The global fleet was ordered parked last month after a fire on a 787 at the Boston airport and an emergency landing in Japan.
“We don’t have visibility on when the 787 will be restored” to service, David said today in an interview. “We make changes in our published schedule to give us the utmost operating flexibility and reliability, and to let our customers know what aircraft to expect when flying us.”
Boeing said it is “staying in close communication” with United, the only U.S. airline with 787s, as the Chicago-based manufacturer works toward getting the model back into service.
“We deeply regret the impact the recent events have had on the schedule for United and their customers,” said Marc Birtel, a spokesman at the planemaker’s commercial headquarters in Seattle.
United said on Feb. 19 that it was taking the Dreamliner off its schedule through March and replacing the planes with other aircraft. The world’s biggest carrier has six 787s and is scheduled to take delivery of two more in the second half of this year.
The start date for service between Denver and Tokyo’s Narita airport will be delayed again if the Dreamliner isn’t ready to fly by May 12, David said.
“There is no viable alternative aircraft,” David said. “This route is only possible with the 787.”