Despite squawks, airline expects 787 to cut costs

By Dan Catchpole Herald Writer

The head of Norwegian Air Shuttle slammed a Boeing Co. field team sent to fix one of the airline’s 787 Dreamliners, saying its members lacked expertise.

“Some of the teams they have put in place don’t have the necessary experience,” Norwegian Air Chief Executive Officer Bjoern Kjos told Bloomberg News on Thursday.

A Boeing spokesman told the news service that the company is “working with our customer to ensure that our support meets their expectations, and implementing improvements when it does not.”

On its face, Kjos’ comments were critical of Boeing and yet another example of ongoing 787 glitches, but they also are a tribute to the plane’s potential to significantly cut an airline’s operating costs. Boeing has estimated it will cost as much as 15 percent less to operate than older models.

There’s no doubt that the Norwegian Air, one of Europe’s largest low-fare carriers, loves the 787. It has a website showcasing the next-generation jetliner’s amenities and technological improvements.

But the airline needs to keep its 787 flying, because it is using the plane to make a bold move to offer discount fares in the long-haul market. Right now, it only has three Dreamliners for routes from Scandanavia to the United States and Bangkok, so it can’t shuffle planes around when a problem temporarily grounds one.

Unfortunately, the airline’s 787 troubles came up around the busy holiday travel season, and it’s reportedly poor response to stranded passengers made for plenty of headlines in the Norwegian press.

Kjos said he expects the delivery of four more 787s later this year to give the airline more flexibility in moving planes around when issues arise.

That is what Polish carrier LOT did Friday when routine maintenance on a 787 took longer than expected and delayed a charter flight to the Dominican Republic, Reuters reported.

A spokeswoman for the airline told Reuters that LOT was able to use another of its Dreamliners for the flight and that there was no problem with the originally scheduled plane.

But due to previous faults, including problems with the plane’s batteries that grounded Dreamliners, LOT is set to get $30 million in compensation from Boeing.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com.