Rumors of delays to the United 787 service growing


When United Airlines published schedules for their initial 787 service offerings there was great excitement. When they actually took delivery of the first aircraft it was a big deal, with media outlets covering it from many angles. Since that delivery there have been a number of test flights around the system, allowing the crews to continue their familiarization with the aircraft. It has also allowed the FAA to test the pilots on various operational aspects such as simulating a mechanical diversion or similar. And it has given the ground crews in many stations the ability to practice their jobs with respect to handling the aircraft.

It also seems to have exposed some issues with the aircraft and United’s ability to operate it reliably. When delays crop up on test flights it is easy to write them off as "other" events rather than indications of real problems. But the frequency of delays on these test flights, as well as other rumblings and rumors, suggest that all is not well in United 787 land. Indeed, delivery of the second aircraft has not yet occurred.

The rumors suggest that there are issues with the electronics in the aircraft. Given that the 767-300s being retrofit into 2-cabin international configs are also having electrical issues and that the two share IFE systems this is rather worrisome. There is also a story floating about in unofficial circles that the company had trouble getting the plane started at one station heading in to a test flight last week. That’s not particularly comforting either.

Hopefully the company manages to figure things out and can get caught up enough on the testing that they do not have to push the scheduled entry in service back from November 4th. The timetables have already been adjusted to add longer turn times for the aircraft, giving larger buffers for things to go wrong. If that’s not enough then there will be a lot of unhappy customers.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

21 Comments

  1. A bit overly dramatic with the last line IMO – the subset of United customers that booked the specific 787 launch flights is much smaller than those that just needed to fly on that day and don’t really know the difference between plane types.

    Think about the last time you rode an RJ on a Saturday – how many people boarding made a joke about the plane size? “Where’s the rest of it?”

    1. I’m all about drama. 😉

      I know a few hundred tickets booked specifically to be on the first. I had originally booked one for the first IAH-EWR. I was disappointed when the schedule change bumped it off for me. But I’ve also already flown a 787. I assume most UA inaugural folks haven’t yet had that experience so the disappointment will be greater.

      I truly hope that United and Boeing can figure things out and get these issues resolved. Lots of good will come from getting these planes into the fleet. But the stories I’ve been hearing aren’t so reassuring. My guess is there are a lot of people at United and Boeing who aren’t sleeping very well right now.

  2. I’m sorry, I don’t follow. Which credit card are you suggesting here? This post is about some sort of 787 credit card that I haven’t heard of.

  3. On Sunday while driving to the airport, I went past through a 787 which was undergoing some kind of a repair

  4. It will be a bummer if the 11/4 date is pushed. I have tickets that day just to fly on the 787, but they are refundable tickets just in case…

  5. I’m not too worried about it…as long as they can get them operational by 3/31. 😉

    That said, given the PR UA has put forth regarding the introduction of the 787 (going so far as to feature it in the prelude to the safety video), even UA has to recognize the disappointment delays will engender in probably a noticeable percentage of its customers.

  6. Jason said, This plane has problems….

    Hmmm, are ANA, Ethiopian, JAL, Qatar et al. also having the same issues? Or is this a UA thing?

  7. Stephan, ANA had problems a couple months ago:
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443437504577544350512523574.html

    They also had issues with the Air India ones that were built in Charleston:
    http://travel.usatoday.com/flights/post/2012/07/boeing-787-south-carolina/814675/1

    Boeing also encountered several different issues at different times with different airframes through the flight tests like this one [not sure which airframe it is and who it is for]:

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/28/travel/dreamliner-engine/index.html

    All issues seem to be engine related, so this is a new set of issues it seems. Boeing was and is still under a lot of pressure to deliver the 787s, so it is having an impact on the reliability of the 787s.

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