Neglected after first flight: story of Avianca Boeing 787-9

Avianca’s (AVHOQ) Boeing 787-9 has a unique story. Unlike many other aircraft currently parked due to technical issues, financial difficulties or COVID-19, Avianca’s (AVHOQ) Dreamliner was grounded straight after leaving the manufacturer’s assembly line.

The brand new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner has ended its operations as soon as it started them. The Dreamliner, now 1.3 year-old, was officially operational for an incredibly short time, during which it made its first and only flight. Boeing manufactured the wide-body on May 11, 2019. For the rest of the time since June 2019, the aircraft has been taking an unexpected rest while grounded in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The unusual short-term story of the aircraft’ began in 2017, when Colombia’s flag carrier reached an agreement with Boeing to convert a previous order of three Boeing 787-8s to Boeing 787-9s, a bigger version of the Dreamliner. Two years later, on May 30, 2019, the airliner was handed over to Avianca’s (AVHOQ) control while the jet itself and the associated engines were still located in Boeing facilities in Seattle, United States, reported SMBC Aviation Capital, the company that the aircraft was leased from.

The debut of the Avianca’s (AVHOQ) spick-and-span 787-9 ended faster than one could imagine. On June 1, 2019, the aircraft was transferred by ferry flight to Abu Dhabi. Since then, the aircraft has been grounded there for an unlimited period of time, based on data.

Perhaps, a similar fortune would have befallen the other two leased Boeing 787-9 aircraft that the airline had planned to receive by the end of 2021. Though, the Columbian air carrier had significant financial liabilities already in 2019, in a credit rating report prepared by Moody’s Investors Service. Avianca (AVHOQ) issued more debt to cover its short-term liabilities later in December 2019.

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit the aviation industry worldwide, Colombia implemented a strict lockdown. According to Reuters, Avianca (AVHOQ) was able to operate only non-scheduled flights between late March and May 2020 and the majority of the company’s 20,000 employees have gone without pay throughout the crisis. On May 10, 2020, Avianca (AVHOQ) filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 protections identifying the main cause of its collapse as an unpredictable impact of the pandemic.

The lack of liquidity and a total debt of $7.3 billion at the end of 2019 left the airline particularly vulnerable, therefore the COVID-19 pandemic could be the last nail to Avianca’s (AVHOQ) coffin. While the company is fighting for survival, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner remains neglected in storage in Abu Dhabi pending changes in the aviation industry.


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