FIRST KENYA AIRWAYS DREAMLINER ON COURSE FOR MARCH 2014 DELIVERY
11 months and counting was the sentiment at Kenya Airways’ Embakasi headquarters, when Boeing yesterday reaffirmed that deliveries scheduled for the B787 Dreamliner will not be affected by the recent grounding of this revolutionary new aircraft. The delivery of the KQ order was repeatedly delayed as a result of production problems at Boeing and resulted, according to a usually well informed source in Nairobi, in significant compensation by Boeing, although both parties have not commented as to the value of the ‘rebates’ agreed.
Last week, after obtaining approval from the FAA for the proposed modifications to the aircraft’s lithium ion battery system, have airlines around the world started to work on installing the revamped battery set up and the 50 aircraft are due to resume service in due course. 10 technical teams from Boeing comprising over 300 technical personnel and engineers have been dispatched to B787 operators to assist in carrying out the modifications ordered by the FAA’s airworthiness directive.
While all the 50 aircraft delivered so far were kept on the ground since January, has Boeing continued to build new aircraft at a rate of 5 per month, set to rise to 10 by the end of this year, to resume instant deliveries just as soon as the modifications have been fitted.
Kenya Airways has 9 B787-8’s on firm order, with a further 4 options which are expected to be turned into firm orders once deliveries have started.
Rival airline Ethiopian has already received four of the B787 and is expected to put the aircraft back into service as early as the beginning of May, putting pressure on Kenya Airways to follow suit. Both airlines are pursuing similar strategies in their struggle for continental superiority and both have earmarked their ageing B767 fleets to be phased out just as soon as the B787 orders are delivered. ‘The B767-300 is an ageing aircraft. Fuel consumption is significantly higher than what the B787 will offer. Ethiopian has started to retrofit some of their B767’s with blended winglets to reduce fuel consumption but Kenya Airways opted not to do that. They will keep their birds in the air until they get their B787’s and then begin phasing the smaller B767 out. Ethiopian now got 4 B787 on their fleet and when they resume flights it will give them a competitive advantage. Some of their new destinations were delayed because of the grounding of the B787 and Kenya Airways is also finding constraints on new long haul destinations as the B767 does not have the range the new B787 will offer. But for sure March 2014 cannot come soon enough for KQ to get back on level terms with their Addis based rivals’ commented a regular aviation source from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Meanwhile are deliveries of other jet aircraft, especially Embraer 190’s continuing for Kenya Airways, facilitating the roll out of more African destinations, thought crucial to the airline’s success in capturing a larger market share on the continent in particular for flights, via Nairobi, to the Gulf, India and the Far East. Watch this space for regular and breaking news from across Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region.