Travelers expected to fly Dreamliner flights as early as May

An All Nippon Airways' (ANA) Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner plane is seen at Haneda airport in Tokyo January 29, 2013. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

An All Nippon Airways' (ANA) Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner plane is seen at Haneda airport in Tokyo January 29, 2013. REUTERS/Toru Hanai  (Copyright Reuters 2013)

Boeing has started replacing batteries on some of its Dreamliner fleet, after the Federal Aviation Administration Friday lifted the order grounding the 787 over battery safety concerns.

This is good news for travelers, who were just getting used to the aircraft’s ergonomically-designed seats, improved in-flight air quality and spacious overhead bins.  

So when can travelers expect to actually book a flight?

On Monday, Boeing announced it dispatched about 300 personnel on ten teams to airlines to begin retrofitting planes with an enhanced lithium ion battery system that includes a stainless-steel enclosure to prevent heat, fumes or a fire spreading. Batteries and battery chargers must also be replaced with different components, the FAA said. In January, the FAA ordered all 50 planes out of the skies after batteries on two of them overheated.

Meanwhile, airlines have begun to implement plans they’ve been forced to shelf while awaiting battery safety tests.

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Here’s the breakdown on how the fixes are affecting some airlines and their schedules:

All Nippon Airways
All Nippon Airways Co., which is the world's biggest operator of the 787, announced Monday it has already begun installing modified batteries into its grounded Boeing 787 Dreamliners.  The fixes on all 17 of its aircraft should take about a week and would make the carrier the first commercial jets to fly again. The airline says it plans to conduct about 100 to 200 round trip test flights in May before it starts flying passengers in June.

Japan Airlines
Japan Airlines Co. has reportedly also started fixing the batteries on two of its seven Dreamliners, according to AFP.  Japan Airlines (JAL), which flies the aircraft only on international routes, is looking to resume Dreamliner services by June.

United , which has six Dreamliners, is the only U.S. carrier to have the Dreamliner.  Earlier this month, United Airlines scheduled domestic 787 flights for May 31 and says it plans on resuming its Denver- Tokyo flight June 10.  Following Friday’s FAA announcement, spokeswoman Christen David said no other schedule changes have been made yet. "We are mapping out a return-to-service plan, and we look forward to getting our 787s back in the air," she told the Chicago Tribune.  

Air India
Air India also has six Dreamliners. Boeing engineers are expected to travel to India on April 24, after the work in Japan, to work on its fleet.   Rohit Nandan, the company’s chairman, told Reuters that the airline expects to resume 787 services by May 15, at the latest.

Qatar Airlines
Qatar Airlines CEO Akbar Al Baker told Reuters that he hopes to have four out of the airline’s five 787’s back in service by the end of April. The airline has had to scale back its Chicago- Doha service, using 777 planes for the route instead, and running it only three days a week.  Qatar Airline says it now looks like it will be able to resume plans to make that a daily service starting on June 15. Also the airline plans to resume Dreamliner service between Doha and London on May 15.