Boeing Co. (BA:US) faces increased pressure from the 787 Dreamliner fleet grounding as LOT Polish Airlines SA pushes ahead with compensation claims and Thomson Airways promises refunds for passengers shunted onto older planes.
LOT, the first European carrier to receive 787s, wants payment by the end of June, Poland’s Treasury Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski said in an interview with Polskie Radio 3 today. U.K.-based Thomson said 787 flights planned for May and June will be carried out using older Boeing 767s, and that passengers who paid extra to fly on the new jet will be reimbursed.
“We will ensure that we are adequately compensated for the situation we and our customers are facing,” Thomson spokeswoman Grace Jones said by e-mail. Some 767 leases have been extended and other fleet adjustments have been made within the TUI Travel Plc (TT/) group to deal with the gap, she added.
LOT is the first airline to publicly demand compensation from Boeing for the grounding. The global 787 fleet was parked and deliveries halted on Jan. 16, just after the Warsaw-based carrier received its first jets, leaving one of them stuck in Chicago, where it flew on an inaugural trans-Atlantic flight.
Norwegian Takes A340s
Thomson said it was “disappointed” that the U.S. planemaker has not issued a new delivery time line. Passengers will also be allowed to reschedule travel plans, it said.
Norwegian Air Shuttle AS (NAS), another 787 customer-in-waiting, said today it signed an agreement with Lisbon-based lessor HiFly to rent two Airbus SAS A340-300s, along with crews, to commence long-haul services if its Dreamliners are delayed.
Europe’s fourth-biggest discount carrier would fly the A340s, previously operated by Singapore Airlines Ltd. (SIA) and Dubai- based Emirates, to New York and Bangkok.
LOT, unprofitable since at least 2008, had counted on the 787s to help it cut its fuel costs, Budzanowski said. Poland will also want Boeing to provide backup airplanes if it turns out that the Dreamliners aren’t able to fly, he said.
LOT said last month it has ditched the 787 from its summer plan and is seeking gap-filler planes, while adding that it could restore them should Boeing come up with a fix in time. The lease of three Boeing 767s will be extended, as the Dreamliners will probably remain out of service until October, LOT said.
The carrier may halt payments for the two 787s it has already taken until the compensation issue is resolved, Tomasz Balcerzak, its head of operations, said on Radio 3. The carrier, which is losing around $50,000 a day from the grounding, is prepared to sue Boeing should the talks fail, he said.
Poland plans to sell LOT after it completes cost cuts that will eliminate more than 360 jobs. It lost a likely buyer in June when Turk Hava Yollari AO, or Turkish Airlines (THYAO), ended talks because of European Union rules capping outside ownership.
The carrier received a 400 million-zloty rescue loan from the government in December, and Prime Minister Donald Tusk said earlier this year that Budzanowski’s place in his cabinet depends on solving LOT’s problems “quickly.”
British Airways (IAG), the largest European airline due to receive 787s this year, also expects deliveries to be late, Willie Walsh, the chief executive officer of BA-parent International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, said last week.
British Airways would keep existing 767s flying until the new model arrives, he said.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, responsible for grounding the Dreamliner, last month began reviewing Boeing’s proposed fix for the battery glitches that led to the move.
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