Dreamliner plans ditched by holiday firm Thomson

Thomson has scrapped plans to operate Boeing's new Dreamliner plane. Picture: Dave Thompson/PA
Thomson has scrapped plans to operate Boeing's new Dreamliner plane. Picture: Dave Thompson/PA
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HOLIDAY airline Thomson has had to scrap plans to operate Boeing’s troubled new ultra-green Dreamliner plane from May.

The aircraft - the Boeing 787 - has been beset with operational difficulties in recent weeks.

Thomson had been hoping to start flying the new quiet, fuel-efficient plane from May.

But today the airline said that, “in the absence of a delivery schedule from Boeing”, it had decided to switch customers booked on the 787 Dreamliner in May and June to alternative planes.

Already years late due to production difficulties, the much-heralded Dreamliner finally entered service with Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways in October 2011.

But a series of battery fires have affected flights of late, with various national aviation authorities ordering the grounding of the planes.

Thomson, which is due to receive eight Dreamliners, is the UK launch customer for the plane and was busy promoting trips on the 787 which can seat between 210 and 290 passengers on medium-range routes.

British Airways is due to receive the first of 24 Dreamliners in May while Virgin Atlantic is scheduled to get the first of its 16 Dreamliners in September 2014.

BA said today that it had not received any notification from Seattle-based Boeing of a delay to the delivery of its first Dreamliners, with a total of four due to be delivered this year.

BA added that the 787s would be replacement aircraft so that if there was a delay in delivery the existing aircraft (Boeing 767s) would carry on operating.

Virgin said it was still working towards its scheduled September 2014 delivery date.

There was better news for BA today as the airline was able to announce that tickets were on sale for its first flight using the superjumbo Airbus A380 - the world’s largest passenger plane.

BA’s first superjumbo flight will be from London to Los Angeles on October 15, with London-Hong Kong services using the A380 starting on November 15.

The superjumbo, which first entered service with Singapore Airlines in October 2007, is capable of carrying well over 500 passengers, but BA’s configuration will see the double-decker plane carrying 469 travellers.

Start-up fares to Los Angeles begin at £499 return, with Hong Kong prices from £559 return.

BA has ordered 12 superjumbos with deliveries taking place from now until 2016, including three this year.

Thomson said today: “Our dedicated customer service team is in the process of contacting all customers impacted to inform them that they will now be travelling on Thomson Airways (Boeing) 767 long-haul aircraft, which have premium cabins.

“The supplement paid for the 787 Dreamliner flight will be refunded to those customers who proceed with their original holiday bookings, and customers will also have the option to amend their holiday without incurring any amendment fees.”

The airline went on: “We understand how frustrating and disappointing this news will be for those customers looking forward to flying on the 787 Dreamliner.

“We are equally as disappointed that Boeing was not able to confirm a delivery date for us but unfortunately these circumstances are out of our control.”

Thomson’s parent company, Tui, had ordered 13 of the Dreamliners, of which Thomson had been allocated eight.

The airline originally hoped it would receive the first four 787s some time before May 2013, with the other four arriving by May 2015.

Flying from Glasgow, Manchester, Gatwick and East Midlands Airports, the first Dreamliners were due to operate to Cancun in Mexico and Orlando in Florida, with the first flight on May 1.

Thomson said it could not comment on just how many passengers had been affected by the Dreamliner delay due to “commercial sensitivities”.