Last week the FAA slapped a leash on Rolls Royce Trent 1000 Package C engines used on roughly 25% of the Boeing 787 Dreamliners operating worldwide. As expected, the impact quickly spread to aircraft registered in other countries as well. This week airlines are starting to detail their mitigation plans given the expected disruptions in their schedules.
The Kiwis are one of the more affected carriers, with scores of flights canceled, rescheduled or aircraft types swapped. The company published a comprehensive list and is working with passengers on reaccommodation where connecting flights will be missed. Because of the shifting fleet plan many destinations are affected, including those that are not typically served by the 787-9 with the engine issues.
Air New Zealand added fuel stops for some flights as part of the mitigation efforts. The carrier is also leasing aircraft from Hi Fly to help fill in the gaps in its schedule. These aircraft are generally poorly received by passengers based on reviews online. Given that the alternative is a cancelled flight it is unclear which is really worse.
British Airways is also adding extra aircraft to cover for the grounded 787s, but not from a leasing company. Reports have the carrier bringing a pair of 747-400s out of retirement to fill the gaps.
The 747s are significantly larger than the 787s they will replace, potentially delivering significantly more space for travelers on board. Unless, of course, BA chooses to sell the full cabin now given that they will be around for a while.
Similar to BA, Virgin Atlantic pulled a plane out of storage to meet the fleet demand. And that was even before this latest round of engine issues. At that time G-VNAP, “Seeping Beauty Rejuvenated,” was expected to be used for occasional substitutions. It is making daily trips across the Atlantic, fully integrated into the fleet now. As the only Virgin Atlantic plane without wifi installed catching it on the schedule is bad luck for passengers hoping to stay connected.
The carrier also picked up a few formerly Air Berlin A330s to help fill in the gaps. That deal is proving prescient given the expected timeline for the Rolls Royce repairs.
LATAM has a handful of 787s parked in Victorville, California awaiting engine-related repairs.
El Boeing 787 CC-BBG, otro de los Dreamliner de LATAM que se fue a descansar al desierto en Victorville
— Desde El Patio BLOG (@PabloK75) March 19, 2018
These planes started their move to the high desert in February, before the latest round of limits was applied. Still, the recent news certainly does not help speed their return to service. A trio of leased A330s from Wamos Air is part of the solution for LATAM, filling in on some routes within South America and to Madrid.
Still other airlines are simply grounding aircraft and holding back on expansion plans given the uncertainty of the engine issues. ANA and Ethiopian both have 787s parked at their main hubs awaiting work, for example. Other airlines undoubtedly do, too.
None of this is good for airlines nor for passengers. And surely Rolls Royce and Boeing aren’t particularly enjoying it, either. Somewhat amazingly, however, the global aviation network is handling the issue with relatively few hiccups. Shifts and tweaks and adjustments, to be sure. But the overall number of passengers not carried as planned remains incredibly low. There’s something to be said for that.