LOT Polish Airline Mothballs Dreamliners for Months After Faults

LOT Polish Airlines SA, the first European carrier to receive Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliners, said it has excluded the grounded jet from its summer flight plan and is seeking alternative long-haul aircraft to fill the gap.

Both 787s already in LOT’s fleet may remain sidelined from day-to-day operations until at least October, spokesman Marek Klucinsk said today by telephone. The airline will extend the lease on three Boeing 767s and will seek two additional long-haul aircraft to replace the 787s, he said.

Mothballing the brand-new aircraft for as long as eight months marks the most pessimistic outlook yet by a Dreamliner customer and shows how airlines are struggling to work around the grounding. The fleet gap at LOT comes as new management is closing unprofitable routes as part of a turnaround effort, of which the Dreamliner was supposed to form a centerpiece.

“The nearest future will be a particularly difficult stage in the history of LOT,” Chief Executive Officer Sebastian Mikosz said in a statement today. “It is a time of necessary changes,” he said, in announcing the closure of Warsaw routes including to Cairo and Yerevan in Armenia and the Krakow-Paris link.

Mikosz, who was the airline’s CEO from 2009 to 2010, returned to the post last week to help the state-owned airline cut losses. Profitable trans-Atlantic flights will be sustained and the airline will focus on business destinations in Europe. LOT will fly from Warsaw to Chicago, New York and Toronto, routes the airline has operated for more than 40 years.

Seeking Fixes

Should Boeing efforts to fix 787s succeed early, LOT would re-introduce the jet ahead of current plans, Klucinsk said. One of the airline’s 787s remains stranded in Chicago after completing its first passenger-carrying long-haul flight there.

Other carriers, such as Norwegian Air Shuttle AS and Thomson Airways, have said they are looking for leased aircraft after Boeing told them last week their Dreamliner deliveries may be delayed further. Boeing suspended deliveries of jets after U.S. regulators grounded the fleet Jan. 16.

Boeing has been cleared by U.S. authorities to carry out test flights of the 787 in a bid to determine what caused battery fires in the lithium-ion power cells that triggered the operational suspension. The root cause of the fire remains unclear.

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