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ANA, JAL return 787 Dreamliners to regularly scheduled services

Kyodo

All Nippon Airways Co. and Japan Airlines Corp. resumed regular 787 services Saturday, after Boeing’s troubled aircraft was grounded worldwide for over four months due to battery problems.

The first scheduled 787 flights by the two carriers were on international routes from Tokyo’s Haneda airport — ANA’s Flight 203 to Frankfurt and JAL’s Flight 35 to Singapore.

It was JAL’s first commercial Dreamliner service since the aircraft’s global grounding in response to fires caused by its lithium-ion batteries. ANA carried out five provisional flights between Tokyo and Sapporo last week, from Monday to Friday.

ANA, which has the largest Dreamliner fleet in the world, began full 787 services on its 12 domestic routes and five international routes Saturday. JAL, which has seven of the aircraft, will use them on five global services.

“We are introducing (the 787s) on scheduled services with confidence, after taking sufficient safety measures,” ANA President Osamu Shinobe assured passengers at a boarding gate at Haneda airport just past midnight Friday. “We’ll do our best for you to have a comfortable flight.”

Neither carrier believes passengers are shunning 787 flights. JAL said it has seen no change to June reservations for Dreamliner services compared with last year, while ANA reported that bookings have surged 9 percent.

“We are confident that the plane is ready to make transoceanic flights without any concern,” JAL President Yoshiharu Ueki said.

Still, some aviation officials continue to voice disquiet about the use of 787s for long-haul services.

Although Boeing’s resolution of the battery problem, which it claims has eliminated all risks of future battery fires, was approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in April, the root cause of the technical defect has yet to be identified. Probes by U.S. and Japanese aviation authorities alike have yet to make much headway.

Regulators across the globe grounded Boeing 787s after one operated by ANA made an emergency landing Jan. 16 at Takamatsu Airport, Kagawa Prefecture, after the cockpit began to fill with smoke. The lithium-ion battery installed in the plane was later found to be severely damaged and charred. Earlier that month, a battery aboard a JAL-operated Dreamliner caught fire while the jet was parked at Boston’s Logan International Airport.