Air NZ flies high with airline of the year award – but Rolls-Royce engines are a drag

Air New Zealand has reclaimed the title of airline of the year in the annual Airline Excellence Awards, judged by seven editors from

The airline  won the title five times before losing out to Singapore Airlines last year.

The awards combine safety ratings with factors such as fleet age, passenger reviews, profitability, product offerings and staff relations.

If Air New Zealand’s patience with engine-maker Rolls-Royce comes into judging considerations, it should score high points.

Yet again the airline is cancelling flights, rescheduling passengers over a busy holiday season and struggling to find suitable temporary fleet replacements for grounded Boeing 787s.

Rolls-Royce says it is getting better with the problems with its Trent turbo-fan engines in the Boeing 787. Weariness is becoming evident as  it becomes clear the company constantly under-estimated the scale of problems with the Trent engine.

This is testing to the extreme the patience of airline customers.

In a recent trading update, Rolls-Royce says Trent 1000 problems across all models will cost it about £2.4 billion from 2017-23, which is about £1 billion more than it forecast a little over a year ago. The company has now certified fixes for the durability problems affecting Package B and C variants of the Trent 1000. It is now concentrating on the latest model, the Trent 1000 TEN.

Rolls reckoned this model would put all the problems behind it. Now it seems the nightmare simply rolls on.

Rolls planned a new high-pressure turbine blade for the Trent TEN. The company hoped to start retrofitting a redesigned high-pressure turbine blade for the engine from early 2020 but recently announced the redesign would not deliver a sufficient level of enhanced durability.

Retrofits will now start in early 2021 and the company says operational profit will take a £1.4 billion charge this year.

In am emollient observation, Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East says the delay

“ … will give our customers and ourselves a higher degree of certainty as we plan for the servicing of the fleet over the coming years.”

The company is expanding its overhaul/repair facilities in Europe, the US and the UK to cope with the problem which lies with the high-pressure turbine blades on the TEN-model Trent 1000 engine. The TEN is the latest version of the Trent 1000 and introduced new technologies to increase thrust and improve efficiency.

CEO East says issues with the Trent 1000 were still causing airline customers significant disruption, but

“ … the health of the [Trent 1000] fleet is on a steady improvement … the number of aircraft on ground is half what it was a year ago.

Rolls forecasts the Trent 1000 Pack B/C issues will cost the company around £450-500 million during 2019, a figure that will decline by £50-100 million in 2020. All the technical changes are expected to be fully embodied into the Trent 1000 Package B/C fleets by 2021.

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