Boeing, Poland's LOT airline in talks over 787s

Associated Press

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's state-owned airline was holding talks with Boeing on Friday over the grounding of the 787 jets, with the government pushing for compensation.

The government says LOT is losing $50,000 a day as a result of the grounding of its two 787s. Treasury Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski has suggested he will ask Boeing to cover the costs of extending the lease on three of LOT's 767 planes that were to be replaced by 787s.

The world's entire fleet of 787s, 50 in all, has been grounded by U.S. and other aviation authorities since Jan. 16 due to problems with lithium ion batteries. One aircraft battery caught fire and another smoldered and forced an emergency landing. About half of the fleet belongs to Japanese carriers All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines.

LOT, which is deeply indebted, was Europe's first airline to have the 787s Dreamliners, hoping they would boost business, but their grounding has only added to the carrier's financial problems.

Last month, management announced it would keep the jets — one of which is in Warsaw, the other in Chicago — grounded through October. Next week, the airline is to present a rescue plan that is expected to include layoffs and cutting of costs.

LOT spokesman Marek Klucinski said Friday that LOT's one-day talks with Boeing in Warsaw were about "cooperation" but refused to provide any detail. A communique from the talks was expected later in the day.

Deputy Treasury Minister Rafal Baniak said he was looking forward to "a positive outcome from LOT's dialogue with Boeing, chiefly concerning the return of B 787 planes to flight operations."

Boeing officials said Friday in Japan that they see commercial flights of the grounded 787 jets resuming "within weeks," even though the cause of battery overheating has not been pinpointed.

The Boeing executives sought to allay fliers' fears about the 787 by repeatedly stressing their commitment to safety. They said it would take too long to figure out what had specifically caused the problems but that a new design of the battery would ensure 787s are safe.

The 787 is the first airliner to make extensive use of lithium ion batteries, which are lighter weight, charge faster and contain more energy than conventional batteries similar in size.

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