Air India Ltd. said it’s demanding compensation from Boeing Co. for delivering 787 Dreamliner aircraft that don’t meet promised fuel-efficiency targets because the planes are heavier than planned.
Design changes made after targets were set meant some 787s are overweight, Air India Chairman Rohit Nandan said in an interview in Doha, Qatar. The Mumbai-based airline and the planemaker are negotiating a formula for compensation, which may be finished after the 18th Dreamliner is delivered, he said.
Complaints over the 787’s performance build on Air India’s dispute with Boeing regarding compensation for tardy deliveries. Air India’s 787s were among the earliest production models of the plane, whose 2011 commercial debut ran about 3 1/2 years behind schedule, and the Dreamliner’s initial operations included a global grounding in 2014 to fix battery meltdowns.
“The worst part is over,” Nandan said. “The initial ones did have some difficulty of engineering, in terms of service, but I think they have all been upgraded now.”
Boeing said in February that Air India wasn’t happy with the reliability of the aircraft and the planemaker was upgrading software and changing components on some planes owned by the flag carrier whenever they could be taken out of service.
“We don’t comment on conversations with our customers,” Doug Alder, a spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing, said today by e-mail when asked about Air India’s latest demand.
Unprofitable Air India ordered 27 Dreamliners on the promise of a more fuel-efficient operation. A jet’s weight is critical in determining consumption of jet kerosene, because a heavier plane requires more power.
Air India has faced other issues with the 787s besides fuel economy. The company had experienced 136 snags with the plane as of November, according to India’s aviation ministry. One plane was diverted to Kuala Lumpur in February as a precaution because of a software fault. In other incidents, some windshields cracked, the Times of India reported last month.
“For the last few months, we have no problems with them,” Nandan said, referring to the 787. “An occasional problem can happen to any aircraft. There’s nothing specific, there’s no pattern as well.”
Excess weight has been a challenge for other 787s. Boeing has struggled to find buyers for 11 of its earliest 787 Dreamliners valued at $1.1 billion after two airlines dropped orders for the holdover models from the jet’s troubled birth, people briefed on the plans had said earlier.
The early Dreamliners are known in the industry as the “terrible teens,” a nod to their place in the assembly-line order and the factory woes. The teens weigh more than other 787s due to custom-fitted reinforcements and needed the most work among the more 60 early Dreamliners that required post-assembly modifications.
While Air India’s planes are from later in the Dreamliner production run than the so-called teens, most of its 787s were among the initial models that required extensive reworking, according to FlightGlobal’s Ascend Online database.