The Boeing aircraft executives who flew into Oslo this week for a crisis meeting with their unhappy customer, Norwegian Air, avoided local media and even reportedly insisted that the meeting be held at a secret location. Norwegian’s boss, meanwhile, faced the camera and apologized for all the trouble Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliners have caused.
“Boeing is now putting all its resources into keeping these aircraft in the air,” Norwegian’s chief executive Bjørn Kjos told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He added that the delays and cancellations that have occurred because of technical problems with the Dreamliners are unacceptable and “just so bad.”
That had to be a difficult admission for Kjos to make, after he’d highly praised the Dreamliners last winter, was confident they’d be delivered on time and would be able to immediately and reliably inaugurate Norwegian’s new long-haul routes to Bangkok and New York. That was before the new Boeing jets experienced battery problems, had to be grounded and have continued to have so many other technical problems that fully half of Norwegian’s new intercontinental routes have either been cancelled or seriously delayed.
“Boeing sees the seriousness of the situation,” Kjos told NRK after emerging from the crisis meeting that Boeing reportedly wanted moved from Norwegian’s own offices at Fornebu, west of Oslo, to avoid being confronted by Norwegian journalists. “The flights must run on schedule. We can’t have passengers sitting for hours and waiting for half of the flights. That’s not how we in Norwegian are used to operating.”
Some airline analysts note that Norwegian itself, though, took on too much risk by launching its new intercontinental service with only two new Dreamliners that had no proven track record. Like most new equipment, they’ve had “teething trouble,” albeit more than their share. That led to Kjos apologizing for the poor service, or lack thereof, by Norwegian, and he sent out a message on social media Thursday morning that he can understand passengers’ frustration.
He also said he thinks Boeing is sorry, and claimed that “almost the entire top management” of the Seattle-based company was in Oslo for the meeting late Wednesday afternoon. Even as they sat and talked, another Bangkok-bound Norwegian Dreamliner flight was delayed at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen.
Lack of spare parts
Kjos, a former fighter jet pilot, said that the biggest problem is a lack of spare parts for the jets that were supposed to represent the new generation of long-haul aircraft. “Boeing has reserve storage in London, and that doesn’t help much when we fly to New York (JFK airport) and Bangkok,” Kjos said. Boeing officials promised they will set up new parts storage at all of Norwegian’s destinations, and that they’ll send “a whole team of Boeing experts” to Oslo. Norwegian has an agreement that Boeing should service its aircraft, unlike some of Boeing’s other customers who have external service agreements.
“Boeing clearly underestimated the problems with the Dreamliners in the beginning,” Kjos said. “When 50 to 60 percent of the flights are delayed because of technical trouble, then you really need to address it.”
Airline analysts have also predicted that Norwegian will log heavy losses because of all its trouble with the Boeing jets. Kjos wouldn’t say, however, who’s footing the bill. “We’re negotiating with them,” he told NRK, “but it isn’t us who are responsible for all these delays.”