This week, Qatar Airways joined airlines in Chile, Japan and India in temporarily halting all Dreamliner 787 flights. The 787s have also been grounded across Europe and the US following a directive from American airline authorities. Following a fire on a Japanese 787, the plane's cutting-edge batteries must be rigorously tested before allowing further flights, says the US Federal Aviation Administration.
Boeing, however, has hit back with a statement insisting that the Dreamliner is safe and that it stands by the integrity of the aeroplane. Alas, instead of allaying fears, Boeing’s dogged insistence sounds rather like one Bruce Ismay, who claimed the Titanic was 'practically unsinkable'…
Only one airline was prepared to put its faith in Boeing’s promise. LOT in Poland planned to send one of its two Dreamliners on its maiden transatlantic flight from Warsaw to Chicago. Passengers became rather agitated as the time for take-off approached. The flight was cancelled at the last minute.
At least it’s not all bad news for Boeing: it’s now the largest maker of passenger jets in the world. The US manufacturer’s deliveries to customers in 2012 have exceeded those of Airbus for the first time in a decade, with 601 aircraft delivered to Airbus’ 588. And how did Boeing manage to out-sell Airbus? By releasing the Dreamliner – some say a little too early – of course.
Airbus may yet grab market share back from its rival, however, with the launch of its own new plane. Described by Airbus bosses as 'a lower risk design' than the Dreamliner, its A350 model is scheduled to enter commercial service in the latter half of 2014.
Let’s just hope Airbus heeds the cautionary tale of the Dreamliner. Everyone loves a new gadget, especially a giant flying one. But any glitch, however small (no one has actually been hurt by any of these Dreamliner malfunctions), can do untold damage to a company’s reputation.