United Airlines cut the grounded Boeing 787 from its flying plans at least until June and postponed its new Denver-to-Tokyo flights Thursday, as airlines continued to tear up their schedules while the plane is out of service.
Investigators still are trying to figure out what caused a battery fire in one plane and forced the emergency landing of another last month. The world’s 50 787s have been grounded since Jan. 16.
United spokeswoman Christen David said the plane could still fly earlier than June 5 if a fix is found. At that point it would be used as needed around United’s system, she said.
United was due to begin flying from Denver to Tokyo on March 31. It is postponing the start of those flights at least until May 12, or longer if the 787 isn’t cleared to fly.
That would be almost a year after United began selling tickets for the flight.
United has said the flights are a perfect fit for the 787, which is mid-sized and fuel-efficient. The thinking is that Denver would be unlikely to fill a bigger plane for a flight to Tokyo, but it can fill the plane’s 219 seats, and the plane is fuel-efficient enough to turn a profit.
LOT Polish Airlines has pulled its two 787s from its schedule through October. The planes are off of All Nippon Airways’ schedule through at least March 30.
Switching the plane to be used on a flight is more complicated than passengers might think. Pilots trained to fly one type might not be able to fly the replacement, creating scheduling problems.
Seats are laid out differently, meaning seating assignments have to be redone.
Boeing has deployed hundreds of workers on the project to find and fix the problem with the 787’s batteries.
Boeing has long used lithium ion batteries in its satellites, according to Dennis Muilenburg, who runs Boeing’s defense and space business.
He said at a conference Thursday that about 20 engineers from the satellite business are among those working on solving the 787 problem.
The Federal Aviation Administration has said it won’t clear 787s to fly until Boeing can show they are safe.
Boeing intends to propose a plan to federal regulators today to temporarily fix problems with the 787’s lithium ion batteries, a congressional official said Wednesday.