United pushes Denver-Tokyo launch as 787 grounding continues

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United Airlines has delayed the launch of its new Denver to Tokyo Narita flight to 12 May, due to the continued grounding of the Boeing 787.

The route was to be United's first new international service on the aircraft with flights beginning 31 March. It still plans to use a 787 on the route but says that the date is tentative pending an end to the continued grounding of the type by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), according to an employee newsletter on 21 February.

Chicago-based United has also postponed all other flights scheduled on a 787 until 5 June. It will operate flights between Los Angeles and both Shanghai Pudong and Tokyo Narita, and between Houston Intercontinental and Lagos on a Boeing 777-200 in the interim.

"We are postponing the Denver-Tokyo Narita route because we do not have another suitable aircraft to serve the route," says United. "We also opted to postpone other 787 flying into June so that we could fully focus on Denver-Tokyo Narita once the 787 fleet is ready to return to service."

The airline has six 787s in its fleet and firm orders for an addition 44.

The grounding is also impacting other planned new international services at United. The carrier is postponing the planned launch of flights between San Francisco and Paris Charles de Gaulle to 26 April, and between San Francisco and Taipei to 6 June.

San Francisco to Taipei flights were to begin on 9 April with a 777-200, and San Francisco to Paris flights were to begin on 11 April with a Boeing 767-300ER.

"We remain confident in the 787," says United. "We are equally confident in Boeing's ability to work with the FAA and the NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] to address the issues covered by the AD [airworthiness directive]."

The FAA grounded the 787 on 16 January following two battery-related incidents on separate aircraft within a week of each other.