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Norwegian Air CEO to meet Boeing over Dreamliner problems

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[January 06, 2014]  OSLO (Reuters)  The Chief Executive of budget airline Norwegian Air Shuttle <NWC.OL>, Bjoern Kjos, plans to meet Boeing <BA.N> management in the United States next week to discuss problems with its Dreamliner planes, Norwegian media reported on Sunday.

Norwegian Air, Europe's third-biggest budget airline after Ryanair <RYA.I> and EasyJet <EZJ.L>, launched long-haul operations last year and hoped to capitalize on the Dreamliner's lower operating costs.

But during the autumn its first two Dreamliners broke down more than half a dozen times, forcing it to lease back-up planes at short notice or cancel flights.

Its newest, the third, plane was grounded in the United States before Christmas, and the company said spare parts had to be ordered for the replacement.

"As far as I know the plane is not back in service yet, we have a wetleased (Boeing) 777 today between Oslo and New York," Anne-Sissel Skaanvik, a spokeswoman for the Norwegian, said in an email to Reuters.

Wetleasing means hiring a plane with a crew.

Norwegian Air might see whether it needs to replace its maintenance service provider, daily VG quoted Kjos as saying in an interview.

Skaanvik could not confirm the quote, but said Kjos, who was already in the United States, was planning a number of meetings there next week.

The Dreamliner was intended as a game changer for the aviation industry as its lightweight body and sophisticated engines cut fuel consumption by 20 percent.

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But it has been beset by problems, including battery fires that grounded the model for months last year and forced Boeing to come up with a new battery design.

The first two Dreamliners bought by the Norwegian Air have previously suffered hydraulic and electrical faults.

Boeing promised to fix problems quicker after its executives met with Norwegian Air in Oslo in September.

After that, Norwegian ordered two more Dreamliners for delivery in 2016.

(Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis; editing by Keiron Henderson)

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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