Inside Story

Boeing's Dreamliner nightmare

As airlines around the world have grounded the 787 Dreamliner planes, what is at stake for the global airline industry?
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2013 13:08

The 787 Dreamliner is Boeing's vision of the future - a cleaner, greener, cutting-edge aircraft, which is 20 percent more fuel efficient than its older rivals.

"All the launch customers ... assumed that they would save a small fortune by deploying these 787 - much more efficient than any previous aircraft. But at the moment it's costing them a large fortune ... and the cost to Boeing's reputation is incalculable at this stage. And on top of that of course it's the long-suffering passengers who are paying the price  .... I would hesitate to say it's a disaster, it's certainly an embarrassment for Boeing. This is still by far the most successful new aircraft .... It is the first proper 21st century aircraft."

- Simon Calder, a senior travel editor for the Independent newspaper

But it has been three years late in arriving, and plagued by soaring costs.
And now airlines around the world have decided to ground the Dreamliners because they are worried about the reliability of the sophisticated new jet after a series of problems.

After a global directive by the US regulator, countries from Japan to Chile to India have taken the Dreamliners out of service. They will not be allowed to fly again until aviation authorities say they are safe.

It is raising concerns over safety in an industry desperate to reduce costs - and it is a big blow to passenger confidence.

Boeing has defended its aircraft in a statement:

"We are confident the 787 is safe and we stand behind its overall integrity. We will be taking every necessary step in the coming days to assure our customers and the travelling public of the 787's safety and to return the airplanes to service."

But it is a huge blow for the US manufacturer, which still has another 800 Dreamliners to deliver.

So, what is at stake for Boeing and the global airline industry?

Joining Inside Story, with presenter Shuilie Ghosh, are guests: Simon Calder, a senior travel editor for the Independent newspaper; Harsh Vardhan, an aviation consultant, and former managing director of the Indian airline Vayudoot; and aviation expert Chris Yates.

"The Dreamliner is just like a Chinese toy and I have travelled in it several times. I have spoken to the crew also and they say that even the interior of the plane is like the Chinese sofa and is breaking into pieces. I have heard a lot of complaints about the aircraft."

Shahnawaz Hussain, India's former aviation minister


  • December 4, 2012: A United Airlines flight made an emergency landing because of an electrical fault
  • December 13: Qatar Airways grounded one of its 787's also because of an electrical problem
  • January 7, 2013: An electrical fire broke out on board a Japan Airlines Dreamliner shortly after landing
  • January 8: Japan Airlines grounded a plane because of a fuel leak
  • January 9: Japan's All Nippon Airlines cancelled a flight because of a brake problem
  • January 11: ANA reported a crack in a cockpit window
  • January 16: An ANA flight made an emergency landing after smoke was seen in the cockpit; a battery problem is suspected.


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