All 15 of the aircraft, using Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 turbines, have been grounded, forcing Virgin to call on its partner Delta and lease extra planes
09 MARCH 2018 – 18:07 CHRISTOPHER JASPER
London — All 15 Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets operated by Virgin Atlantic Airways are affected by faults with Rolls-Royce Holdings engines that power the wide-body planes, according to the carrier.
Grounding the Trent 1000 turbines for fixes has been “seriously disruptive”, forcing Virgin to find a number of workarounds, including calling on partner Delta Air Lines and leasing extra aircraft, Shai Weiss, the UK company’s chief financial officer, said in an interview in London.
Durability issues with components used in the Dreamliner engine and the Trent 900 that powers Airbus SE’s A380 super-jumbo cost Rolls-Royce £227m ($314m) in charges last year and wiped £170m from cash flow, the London-based manufacturer said Wednesday.
The cash impact could double this year as maintenance activity peaks, and the re-design of problem parts won’t be fully incorporated in the 787 fleet until 2022, Rolls-Royce said. It estimated in August that as many as 500 Trent 1000s — which compete with General Electric’s GEnx turbines on the 787 — would need early maintenance because of wear issues affecting the fan blades.
After initially relying on Atlanta-based Delta, which has a 49% stake in Virgin, to operate some flights on its behalf while engines received attention, Virgin will begin taking delivery of four Airbus A330-200 planes this month to provide spare capacity.
The leased aircraft, which will be used on flights from Manchester, England, were previously operated by defunct German airline Air Berlin and are being painted in Virgin’s livery while retaining their old cabin layout. Weiss said the planes are likely to be retained even after the Trent 1000 work is completed, providing a significant boost in capacity.
Asked whether Virgin Atlantic — one of the half-dozen biggest global customers for the 787-9 version of the twin-engine Dreamliner — has been paid compensation for the upheaval, Weiss said the carrier is holding “commercial discussions in private.”
Rolls-Royce didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.