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Airline mulls resuming grounded flights to Tokyo

dreamlinerSAN DIEGO — Japan Airlines is studying whether to resume flights between San Diego and Tokyo using a Boeing 777, in the wake of failures that have plagued the new Boeing 787 aircraft.

The airline launched San Diego’s long-awaited nonstop connection to Asia on Dec. 2. But the new “Dreamliners” were grounded by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, aviation authorities in Japan and airlines following an emergency landing in western Japan last week. It was the latest of a series of mechanical problems with the passenger jet, which included two lithium-ion batteries catching fire and a fuel leak.

Carol Anderson of Japan Airlines told City News Service that the flights between Lindbergh Field and Narita Airport in Tokyo will remain shut down through Monday.

“JAL considers the 777 to be the most suitable replacement for this route at this time,” Anderson said. “We hope to resume Narita-San Diego service as soon as it becomes possible for us to operate the 777 on this route.”

She said feasibility issues include flight and airport operations, and maintenance. British Airways uses a 777 in its London nonstop flight from San Diego.

Anderson said the airline is working to accommodate passengers impacted by the canceled flights and apologized for the inconvenience.

San Diego leaders trumpeted the potential for economic gains with the nonstop service to Japan, which was made possible by efficiencies built into the Dreamliner. The older 777 is larger, heavier and carries more passengers.

In a statement issued Monday, the airline said it would “assess the situation with the ongoing investigations” in deciding how to proceed with its Dreamliner fleet and indicated a decision would come Jan. 29 or shortly thereafter.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was quoted last week as saying the 787 would not fly again until he was “1,000 percent sure” of its safety.

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