United’s 787s delayed, but nobody is saying why

There appears to be a lot of focus on delays in delivering the next Boeing 787s to United Airlines–which has received one–but neither Boeing or United is saying what’s behind the delays. (Update, Dec. 1: one of the three was delivered yesterday.)

According to the Ascend data base, line numbers 45, 50 and 52 are supposed to be delivered this year and 55 and 77 are supposed to be delivered in January. All are with GEnx engines.

Here are some possible reasons for the delay:

  • Rework is the obvious one. The first “clean” airplane to come off the Boeing assembly line in Everett was around line #66. The lower the line number, the more rework. UAL’s line numbers are higher, but rework is still necessary.
  • GEnx engines. The failures on the 787 and 747-8 GEnx engines were unrelated and, as these things go, not especially severe, but fixing them is, we are told, complex for engines already assembled. Qatar refused delivery of its first 787 because of the GEnx issue. Contractually delivery has been accepted but the airline also wanted additional IFE (inflight entertainment equipment) installed and physically hasn’t accepted delivery. So…
  • IFE upgrades: These UAL 787s were ordered by Continental Airlines prior to the merger and it’s been reported in the press that the delays in Boeing’s delivery left UA/CO will older, less sophisticated Buyer Furnished Equipment (the IFE). Maybe UAL wants more current IFE?

We were asked by media if this is another blow to the 787 program. We don’t think so. At this point, we haven’t heard of anything about the reason for the delay and pretty well shrugged it off anyway.

Meanwhile, Airbus is in talks with at least some of its A380 customers seeking compensation for the operational interruptions resulting from required inspections related to wing rub brace cracking. Compensation could amount to millions of Euros per customer.

33 comments on “United’s 787s delayed, but nobody is saying why

  1. Irritating as these delays might be, I guess Boeing has overcome the major issue that plagued the program for years. The aviation community has had much bad news on the Dreamliner minor BFE related delays doesn’t turn heads anymore. Focus is now at reducing costs and boasting production while making the tarmac fleet shrink.

  2. Here’s some of what Les Echos reported, regarding the A380.

    http://www.lesechos.fr/entreprises-secteurs/air-defense/actu/0202357331621-air-france-veut-etre-indemnisee-pour-les-indisponibilites-des-a380-505696.php

    Quoting:

    “Three years after its entry into service in the Air France fleet, the A380 remains a tension between Air France-KLM and Airbus . Like other airlines such as Emirates, the French company claimed financial compensation to the manufacturer for the shortfall caused by too many outages of its very large aircraft, as well as measures to improve their reliability. The amount of these damages could reach tens of millions of euros. To date, discussions with Airbus protracted, as did the negotiations for the order of 25 A350-announced in the summer of 2011 and still not signed, which is not limited to the single issue of engine maintenance Rolls-Royce.
    According to our information, the availability rate of A380-essential data for company-indeed remains well below expectations causing too many delays and cancellations. Eight A380 in the colors of Air France, carrying more than 4,000 daily passengers would display another failure rate by about 3%, nearly double the rate commonly accepted. Abnormalities most often harmless, which generally cause delays, but sorely test the patience of Air France teams and sometimes its passengers.”

    Looks like compensation could be tens of millions of euro’s per customer…

    • Sorry, I seem to have lost the connection between United Airlines and the 787 with respect to Air France and the A380.
      Perhaps you could enlighten me.

      • The last paragraph of Scott’s entry is about the A380 issue. I presume that is what Observer is responding to, so I don’t see your point. Or is your complaint with Scott’s lumping the A380 item into the post about the 787 — possibly you would prefer it be given it’s own headline?

      • Agree, the original news UA was replacing its daily 747-400s to Asia with A350-900s was a fairytale from an Asian network growth perspective. Even A350-1000s seem on the small site.

  3. The fact that neither side is talking about does not make it sound so good, whatever the issue may be. If it was something minor, would not one or the other (onus is more on United as the customer) already have explained what it is?
    WOuldn’t it be a bit late now to ask for upgraded IFE? That should have been done some time ago, shouldn’t it?

  4. This according to All Things787:

    “United Airlines – Another big one. United just announced that they are delaying the implementation of it 787 schedule (domestic) as result of delays in the delivery of one 787 that was due in October. They are delaying the launch of some 787 domestic service that was supposed to start on November 4th. Currently the 2nd 787s for United is in test flights and has had two flights already. There are two more on the flightline both of which still need to make their first flights. I do think that Boeing can get both these airplanes in the air by early to mid November and have a least two of them delivered to United by the end of the month with one delivered in the 1st two weeks of November. The other 2 787s that are in change incorporation should be ready to be delivered by the end of December. My prediction for November”:

  5. Matt B :The last paragraph of Scott’s entry is about the A380 issue. I presume that is what Observer is responding to, so I don’t see your point. Or is your complaint with Scott’s lumping the A380 item into the post about the 787 — possibly you would prefer it be given it’s own headline?

    No, it doesn’t require its own headline, not for me at least.
    But I must admit that I unfortunately did overlook the last two sentences in Scott’s post. That is why I was asking about the comment posted by Observer.

      • This simply isn’t the case. It may be that the IFE this particular airline has on contract for their 787 is a generation behind, but the 787 offers the newest generation of IFE from both Thales (TopSeries AVANT) and Panasonic (Ex3). These offerings are no different than Boeing offers on any model and, in fact, are the same as what Airbus is offering on the A350, which won’t enter service for several years.

  6. IFE lasts ~8 yrs (inseat IFE, old rule of thumb). Some airlines have had delayed their Dreamliners more then 4-5 yrs. Slow production ramp up only worsens this. So when they specified and ordered their IFE 6-8 yrs ago it no doubt was top notch, easily upgrade-able, hot swappable heat-ends, solid backbones, ready for the foreseeable future and other sales talk w’ve been hearing since the early nineties, from the guys/girls that are still around (hopping the industry).. Things have changed rapidly with almost all passengers bringing their own multimedia devices and needing power/connections.

    • Thanks CM for your comment. I thought that it was somewhat weird and strange that Boeing could not offer the latest IFE on the 787. After all, was it not created with the vision of being able to be configure for present and future generation of inflight entertainment systems and avionics as their became available?

      • CM’s comment collides with Scotts information ?
        One simplification/cost reduction step for the Dreamliner
        was a massive reduction in customer choices!
        “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”

      • Not sure there is really a collision here. CM said that B offers the latest. Mary’s story says that B resists cutting updates in, which I take to mean changing the selected IFE for in-process frames. So as I read it, frames that have been in process for a long time may end up delivering with older tech, but customers can select the latest for frames that are not yet in progress.

        • Matt B: “on frozen configuration”

          That seems to be a good interpretation.
          So customers pay double for Boeing’s delays ?

  7. Uwe :
    CM’s comment collides with Scotts information ?
    One simplification/cost reduction step for the Dreamliner
    was a massive reduction in customer choices!
    “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”

    Why keep on harping about it when he said the opposite, there is no problem getting the latest and greatest on the 787, look at Qatar, they accepted their frame but Thales had to fix their IFE on its own. Maybe IFE is not the OEMs problem really, can you really blame Boeing if Thales system is buggy? Beoing sell you a plane and Thales sells you the IFE.

  8. CM :
    This simply isn’t the case. It may be that the IFE this particular airline has on contract for their 787 is a generation behind, but the 787 offers the newest generation of IFE from both Thales (TopSeries AVANT) and Panasonic (Ex3). These offerings are no different than Boeing offers on any model and, in fact, are the same as what Airbus is offering on the A350, which won’t enter service for several years.

    CM, I know you are directly involved but what you are stating is somewhat not the case for Airlines who had their cabin/system definitions done when? 1, 2 or 3 years ago? As of July 2012, PAC eX2 and Thales Topseries were still the IFEC for the 787 (at least in the catalogue). So this means that Customers who had their definition done up until that time should have these 3rd generation IFE (as proved by all aircraft delivered so far, even Qatar who has the latest passenger control units, but not the system behind it).
    eX3 and Avant were only just introduced this year for Boeing aircraft catalogues, and I doubt that linefit aircraft can come out of the line with those systems as of now. I am even pretty sure that it will still take a while (777 coming first I think soon?).
    The A350 catalogue included those 4th gen systems since end 2010,and should EIS in 1.5 year (not several). This is Boeing catching up with what customers have been asking for for a while now.

    • Sorry, I misread your post CM, you kind of explained what I said as well. I agree with your comment, I doubt that any aircraft delivered so far as eX3 or Avant installed. My bad.

  9. Customer configurations were not frozen years ago – otherwise the United planes would have “Continental” painted on their sides. Also, even airlines that have planes delivered over time have various tweaks in the configuration over time. No surprise these are typically seats, IFE, livery, and class configurations.

  10. I know there are doubters out there, since both Mary and Scott have come out with a story contrary to my earlier post.

    “CM’s comment collides with Scotts information”

    Qatar’s 787 is a good example of what we are talking about. It was originally spec’d with Thales TopSeries i8000 IFE, but Al Baker was unhappy this system would have key differences from 787s, A380s and A350s, which are scheduled to arrive with the TopSeries AVANT system in the 2014/2015 timeframe. As a result, the Qatar 787s were held at Boeing for modification of the i8000 system, to essentially upgrade it in functionality and appearance to the AVANT spec. This includes the same 10.6″ displays in economy, and the “iPhone-like” TPMU controllers running on the Android user interface.

    “Customer configurations were not frozen years ago”

    Anything is possible, as evidenced by the Qatar 787, but Boeing is extremely averse to any late change which can disrupt production or the delivery window. Paint is a poor example, as all aircraft need to be painted and (with the exception of the rudder) none of this has significant lead time considerations. Changes in the cabin and other traditionally BFE items will generally hit a brick wall when a customer asks for a late change to the aircraft. That “freeze” is typically 10-18 months prior to the delivery.

    • I can imagine Boeing would be unwilling to agree to any “late” changes to aircraft in the flow but I would imagine that they are under extremely serious pressure from the customers and don’t have that strong a leg to stand on, due to the extreme delays already extent in the program. Airbus had the same situation with the A380, and despite all their “lessons learned”, look to be repeating that situation with the A350.

      Perhaps Boeing has found another way of satisfying the customers without changing aircraft that are already in the loop. I certainly would be interested in knowing how they pull it off.

      Having said that, I would have thought that Qatar and United would have asked for these IFE updates, assuming this is truly the issue, a long time ago.

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