Norwegian Air Shuttle is playing down the delayed introduction of its Boeing 787s, saying it does not expect the hold-up in deliveries to be excessive.
The Oslo-based low-cost airline has eight 787-8s on order, three of which are due for delivery this year. The first had been scheduled to arrive in time to launch long-haul services between Oslo and Bangkok and New York in late May. The delay has prompted Norwegian to take two Airbus A340-300s on a short-term wet-lease from Portuguese operator HiFly.
But speaking in London at the launch of its new base at Gatwick airport - which starts operations in April - Norwegian chief executive Bjorn Kjos said he expected the 787 delivery slip will "only be for some weeks". He declined to put an exact timescale on when the 787s will start arriving, however, adding: "I'm not allowed to say."
The airline is taking one A340 for two months and the other for three months - starting in May and mid-June respectively. Kjos says the leases were finalised before Boeing had devised its plan for the 787 battery fix: "This was a worst-case situation before we knew how long the fix would take - we are talking about weeks of delay, not months."
Kjos, who is an ex fighter pilot, has a good technical understanding of the 787's battery issue and does not have any long-term concerns about it. "Boeing has put a lot of effort into solving the problem," he says. "One of the problems is that there are so many back-up systems on the 787. You don't actually need the batteries to fly the aircraft."
Kjos explains that the batteries are needed for starting on the ground and as a back-up system. "If you push from the gate and lose the battery, it doesn't matter. You don't need the battery during the flight," he says. "The only time the battery is connected to the systems is for 90s during take-off for back-up in case of an engine failure."