All Nippon Airways, which halted service from Sea-Tac Airport to Tokyo earlier this year when aviation authorities worldwide grounded Boeing Dreamliners, will resume Sea-Tac service beginning June 1.
That service, however, will be flown by Boeing 777-300ER aircraft at least until September, when Dreamliner service will resume. ANA had initiated service to Sea-Tac last summer using the larger, 247-seat aircraft. It began 787 Dreamliner service last fall. The Dreamliners ANA used on the Seattle-Tokyo route were equipped with 158 seats.
“We are pleased to announce the resumption of daily services between Seattle and Tokyo beginning in June,” said Osamu Shinobe, President and CEO of ANA. “This is an important route for ANA that is expected to grow. Initially, the service will be operated by Boeing 777 aircraft but we intend to re-introduce the 787 on this route by the end of September, 2013.”
ANA and its Japanese rival, Japan Air Lines, are expected to resume Dreamliner service in early June on some routes.
The Dreamliners were grounded after two incidents in which lithium-ion batteries aboard the planes melted down. One such meltdown occurred after a JAL Dreamliner had landed in Boston and had discharged its passengers. The other meltdown happened when an ANA 787 was flying a domestic route over Japan. The plane made an emergency landing.
No one was injured in either incident, but authorities grounded the 50 Dreamliners then in airline hands until Boeing developed a remedy for the wayward batteries in late April. Each of those planes is being retrofitted with new batteries in which the individual cells are separated from others by ceramic plates to keep a thermal runaway from spreading.
Boeing has also altered the charging system to prevent over- and under-charges. The new batteries are housed in a stainless steel box vented to the outside to keep smoke from entering the aircraft. ANA and JAL are now running extensive test flights with the new batteries.
The 777’s larger capacity may be better suited for the higher traffic summer months on the Sea-Tac-Tokyo route, and the Dreamliner’s lower capacity may better match low-season passenger loads on the route.
ANA faces strong competition on the route. Delta Airlines flies twice daily to Tokyo from Sea-Tac. One of those flights uses a larger 747-400 to connect Sea-Tac to Tokyo’s Narita Airport. A second daily flight will land at Tokyo’s close-in Haneda Airport. United Airlines also flies daily to Tokyo from Sea-Tac.