Air India's plaints against Dreamliner justified, admits Boeing

American aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co said today that India's national carrier Air India Ltd is unhappy with the performance of its 787s Dreamliners, which have suffered a number of glitches before and after their commercial launch.

''Yes, they are not happy with the reliability portion, neither are we,'' Dinesh Keskar, senior vice president at the Chicago-based Boeing, planemaker, said in an interview at the Singapore Airshow. ''Over the last few months, we have understood which are the components causing issues, which software needs to be upgraded.''

According to an earlier report, Air India plans to seek compensation from Boeing, not just because of the numerous glitches but also because the Dreamliner is not proving as fuel-efficient as Boeing had claimed.

"The Dreamliner's actual fuel consumption pattern over 18 months of usage (discounting the four months they were grounded globally last year) and the difference in what Boeing claimed would be this aircraft's fuel efficiency will be the basis of estimating the compensation to be sought from the aircraft manufacturer," the Times of India quoted an unspecified 'senior official' as saying.

The final weight of the 787s was much heavier than what Boeing had promised at the time the Dreamliner was on the drawing board. "It was supposed to be 17 per cent more fuel efficient than the Airbus A-330, but has so far been only 13-14 per cent. The B-787 was supposed to be 37 per cent thriftier on fuel than the B-777, but has been consuming only 28-30 per cent less. AI's fuel uplift has not gone down as the Dreamliner has not been as fuel efficient as it should have been," the senior official said, according to ToI..

The Dreamliner has experienced a series of malfunctions since its debut in 2011, including a three-month grounding of the global fleet last year after battery meltdowns on two planes. The plane's fuel efficiency is a key to cutting costs at Air India, which hasn't made an annual profit since 2007.

Earlier this month, Air India diverted one of its 787s to Kuala Lumpur as a precaution after the plane developed a software fault on a flight to New Delhi from Melbourne, while last month a transponder failure forced another to return to London (See: Air India Dreamliner returns to base with communications glitch).

Boeing is upgrading software and changing some components on Air India 787s whenever the planes can be taken out of service, Keskar said, adding that a 13th Dreamliner will be delivered to the carrier this month.

The state-run carrier has ordered 27 Dreamliners, of which about seven are already operational. The cash-strapped carrier is looking to lease or re-sell as many of these aircraft as it can (Air India getting rid of Boeing Dreamliners, 777s to shore up books).

The 787 is the first jetliner built chiefly of composite materials rather than traditional aluminium. It also relies to a greater degree than other jets on electricity to run the plane's systems, putting the spotlight on the lithium-ion batteries. Furthermore, late last year an Air India 787 developed windshield cracks during landing.

Keskar nonetheless said Boeing sees potential aircraft deals in India later this year. The company is in advanced talks with discount carrier SpiceJet Ltd. (SJET) and Jet Airways (India) Ltd. (JETIN), the nation's biggest publicly traded airline, to sell 737 Max jets.

Boeing will increase its prediction for India plane demand in the next couple of months, Keskar said in an interview to Bloomberg Television in Singapore today. The company had forecast last year that carriers in the Asian nation will need 1,450 new aircraft, worth $175 billion over the next two decades.