It's Back! Boeing 787 Dreamliner Returns to Commercial Service in Africa

ethiopian dreamlinerFor the first time in three months, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner took to the skies in commercial revenue service on Saturday, April 27, 2013. Ethiopian Airlines safely operated a short flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Nairobi, Kenya with the airplane.

The good news for Boeing was that the flight was absolutely normal. Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, and Randy Tinseth, Boeing's vice president of marketing, were onboard. 

It was a cheery scene as Boeing officials, international news media and other VIPs boarded, did interviews onboard and welcomed the plane back into service. Tinseth's blog has photos and describes the scene:

Most of Ethiopian’s revenue passengers had no clue their flight was the first after the airplane’s new battery fix was installed. Some passengers asked the flight attendants, “Why is the BBC onboard?” 

It was certainly good news for Boeing, given that the worldwide 787 Dreamliner fleet was grounded several months ago due to airworthiness safety issues with its lithium battery.

The Ethiopian Airlines flight came a day after Japanese and U.S. authorities gave approval for a battery safety fix and flights to resume. 
In another positive step, on Sunday All Nippon Airways (ANA) operated its first test flight of a 787 Dreamliner with the new battery fix. But it chose to do so without any revenue passengers onboard.

Taking the test flight were Ray Connor, Boeing's CEO, and Shinichoro Ito, CEO of ANA Group.

ANA hasn’t said when its commercial flights with the airplane will resume. It plans more than 200 more test flights prior to putting the plane back in service, but its engineers will begin installing the battery fix on the planes starting today.

Japan Air Lines, another operator of the Dreamliner, said it will begin test flights in May.

United Airlines is the only U.S. flag carrier operating Dreamliners and plans to put those back in service starting on May 31.

A U.S. representative for LOT Polish Airlines told Travel Agent that its Dreamliner flights went on sale Friday. LOT will begin flying the Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Chicago to Warsaw on June 5, followed on June 7 from Toronto to Warsaw.

In addition, LOT plans to begin New York City (JFK) to Warsaw flights in July, following the delivery of LOT’s third Dreamliner from Boeing.

"LOT Polish Airlines is very excited about having the Dreamliner in our fleet," said Frank Joost, LOT Polish Airlines' regional sales director - Americas, on Monday morning. "We have made many changes in our service and training in anticipation of introducing this aircraft to our passengers."

The original grounding of the Dreamliner fleet occurred after a Japan Airlines 787 parked at Boston’s Logan International Airport had a battery fire. In another case, battery smoke forced an All Nippon Airways 787 to land unexpectedly.

Boeing engineers have been working around the clock on a fix. Boeing says the approved fix which includes a strong casing for the battery will cover any potential problems and protect the safety of passengers. The FAA concurred and approved the steps for the fix - thus allowing the retrofitted aircraft to fly once again.

But not all are convinced that the steps to protect passenger safety have been diligent enough. The whole issue has proceeded a bit too quickly for James Hall, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board; he penned a New York Times editorial this past weekend that was critical of the FAA.

Hall questions whether the parties acted too quickly and cites the close relationship between the FAA and airplane manufacturers. It’s a unique perspective; agents may find it here:

On the aircraft production side, Boeing is moving ahead and said Saturday that it plans to build seven 787 Dreamliners a month starting in summer and 10 per month by year’s end.