Avianca's entire Boeing 787 fleet is back in service, although the aircraft are operating with some restrictions after a "very painful" period of grounding, says Avianca chief executive Hernan Rincon.
The Star Alliance's 12-aircraft 787 fleet was back to operating flights as of about a month or so ago, Rincon tells FlightGlobal at the ALTA Airline Leaders Forum in Panama City. It also received a 13th 787 a few weeks ago.
Avianca previously had two 787s grounded for repairs to its Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines. While the airline's 787 fleet is back in service, they are operating with certain restrictions on flight hours, flight paths and other limitations, says Rincon.
"We are hoping that by mid-year next year at the latest, that all the issues are resolved not only conceptually, but all the new hardware will be installed on the engines," he adds.
Rincon credits Rolls-Royce for being "very professional" in working with the airline to resolve the issues. But he acknowledges that the grounding was "very painful" for the airline, which wet-leased aircraft to replace the 787s on its long-haul European routes.
"The customers didn't like it because they flew on an older aircraft instead of a new 787," says Rincon.
Avianca is among several Trent 1000 operators worldwide that had to ground their 787s due to the engine problems. Elsewhere in Latin America, LATAM Airlines Group says four of its 24 787s remain grounded, pending preventive maintenance from Rolls-Royce. This is down from a peak of 13 grounded aircraft, notes a LATAM spokesman.