* Launch of Denver to Tokyo route delayed
* Analyst: Boeing will likely have to pay carrier
* Paint problem found in fuel-leak probe - report
Feb 21 United Continental Holdings said
on Thursday it was taking Boeing Co's grounded 787
Dreamliner out of its flying plans through June 5, except for a
Denver-to-Tokyo route scheduled for a tentative launch in May.
Meanwhile, Japanese investigators studying fuel leaks on the
787 found a problem with the paint on equipment controlling the
fuel-tank valve, the Nikkei news service reported, citing people
familiar with the details.
United's decision to mostly exclude the 787 from its
schedule until June comes as other airlines that have 787s are
setting schedules for coming months while still uncertain about
when the plane will be able to resume service.
The Dreamliner fleet has been grounded for the past five
weeks after batteries burned on two planes in January. Boeing is
due to meet with the head of the U.S. Federal Aviation
Administration on Friday to present measures designed to prevent
such failures, a source told Reuters, even
though the root cause of the problem has not been determined.
United spokeswoman Christen David said in a statement on
Thursday that the carrier's Denver to Tokyo Narita International
route, originally set to start March 31, had been postponed to
The launch would ultimately depend on a successful
resolution of the safety incidents that have grounded the 787.
Other service with the 787 won't resume until after June 5,
"We are taking the 787 out of our schedule through June 5,
except for Denver-Narita, which will tentatively launch on May
12," United's statement said.
Boeing said it was maintaining communication with United as
the plane maker develops a plan to resume 787 service. "We
deeply regret the impact the recent events have had on the
schedule for United and their customers," Boeing spokesman Marc
Birtel said in an emailed comment.
United's statement doesn't mean that the 787 won't be ready
to fly again before June 5, said Carter Leake, an analyst at
BB&T Capital Markets.
Rather, it means United won't put the jet into service
before then. If the plane is available sooner but United can't
use it on its scheduled routes, Boeing likely would have to pay
United compensation that Leake estimates at about $800,000 a
month, based on lease rates.
"This does not tell you that Boeing's plane is grounded
until June," he said. "It tells you that Boeing's costs to
United could be as if it's grounded until June."
A "superbox" to contain the battery or some other fix "might
come sooner, but United is not paying" to have the jet until
after June 5, he added.
In a similar move, Poland's national airline LOT
said last week that it would not use the 787 before October and
that it is seeking compensation from Boeing.
"Airlines don't make money while their planes are on the
ground," said Morningstar airline analyst Basili Alukos.
United is the only U.S. carrier currently operating the 787
and has six of the planes, worth $207 million apiece at list
prices. Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways
have most of the 50 jets delivered to airlines so far.
Meanwhile, Japan's Nikkei newspaper, citing sources,
reported in its Feb. 22 morning edition that Transport Ministry
investigators found deficiencies in how electrical-insulating
paint was applied to a driving mechanism that opens and closes
the 787's fuel-tank valve. The ministry also found foreign
matter stuck on a switch on the mechanism.
The ministry is discussing the cause and measures to prevent
recurrences with the U.S. FAA and Boeing, the Nikkei report
In addition to the battery problem, investigators have been
looking into a case in which a Japan Airlines 787
leaked fuel while taxiing to the runway for take-off at Boston's
Logan International Airport in January.