UPDATE 1-Japan's ANA cancels more Dreamliner flights; no quick fix in sight

Sat Jan 26, 2013 3:54am EST

* ANA cancels another 379 Dreamliner flights
    * ANA says 82,620 passengers affected by grounding
    * Regulators, experts suggest probe may take months


    By Leika Kihara
    TOKYO, Jan 26 (Reuters) - All Nippon Airways Co,
which has the biggest fleet of Boeing Co's troubled
Dreamliner jets, on Saturday cancelled hundreds of flights until
Feb. 18, signalling a quick fix to the plane's safety problems
was unlikely.
    ANA, Asia's biggest airline by revenue and an important
launch customer for Boeing's newest plane, said another 379
flights scheduled for Feb. 1-18 had been scrapped, bringing to
838 the number of cancellations since one of its Dreamliners
made an emergency landing in western Japan on Jan. 16.
    The announcement underscores the widening pain the
Dreamliner problem is inflicting on the industry, with safety
regulators and experts warning that investigations into the
cause of a series of small fires on the plane could take months
or even a year.
    All Dreamliners have been grounded since Jan. 17, forcing
hundreds of flight cancellations worldwide, including in the
United States, India and South America.
    The cancellations have affected more than 82,620 passengers
for ANA, which says it flies around 3.7 million passengers each
month on domestic and international routes.
    ANA said in a statement it will make further announcements
on what to do with flights beyond Feb. 19.
    The announcement came after U.S. safety regulators said they
were nowhere near finishing a probe into a battery fire on one
of the 787 aircraft, raising the prospect of a lengthy
suspension for the cutting-edge airliner. 
    
    Japan's two big carriers -- ANA and Japan Airlines 
-- have been most affected because they own around half of the
lightweight, fuel-efficient jetliners in operation as a
strategic move to grab market share from their U.S. and European
rivals.
    The grounding is particularly hard on ANA, which
acknowledges it may have to scale back its next 2-year business
plan that puts the Dreamliner at the centre of its growth
strategy.
    "The 787, which is the pillar of our management strategy, is
in such a condition we have yet to decide on whether we can
present a 2-year plan like we did in the past," ANA spokesman
Ryosei Nomura has told Reuters. 
    Investigations have centred on the plane's lithium-ion
battery unit. U.S., Japanese and Boeing representatives have
this week been at the Kyoto headquarters of GS Yuasa Corp
, which makes batteries for the 787.