SAN JOSE -- All Nippon Airways' fleet of 17 Boeing 787 Dreamliners is scheduled to be retrofitted with new batteries and cleared for service by the end of May, in time to resume regular flights between Mineta San Jose International Airport and Tokyo's Narita International Airport on June 1.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the 787s can fly again once their problem-plagued lithium-ion batteries are replaced. As of Thursday, ANA had modified 12 of its 17 Dreamliners and finished testing 10 of them, according to ANA spokeswoman Jean Saito.
All of ANA's Dreamliners are scheduled to be modified by May 27, Saito said.
Following battery system modifications, safety checks and test flights, ANA plans to operate five weekly flights out of San Jose, with plans to add daily service in September 2013.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, built mainly from carbon-fiber composite material, was expected to launch a new era in airline fuel efficiency and passenger comfort tailored for smaller airports such as Mineta.
San Jose officials hoped that ANA's Dreamliner service also would attract more international flights to Silicon Valley and reduce the debt from the airport's billion-dollar makeover.
ANA launched its inaugural five-day-a-week service from San Jose on Jan. 11, only to see the route suspended after smoke filled an ANA 787 midflight in Japan. The week before, a battery caught fire on a parked Japan Airlines 787 in Boston.
Japanese carriers already had grounded their 787s when the FAA in January ordered the lone U.S. Dreamliner carrier, United Airlines, to stop flying its six 787s.
"We're excited that ANA will soon resume its nonstop service between San Jose and Tokyo," San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said in a statement. "I'd like to thank ANA for their continued diligence in ensuring passenger safety and for their commitment to offering Silicon Valley businesses and travelers a convenient connection to Japan and the Pacific Rim."
ANA does not plan to disclose the cost to get its 787s back in the air -- a price tag that some carriers are trying to pass on to the plane's manufacturer, Boeing.
Michael Boyd, chairman of Boyd Group International, an aviation consulting firm based in Evergreen, Colo., estimated the cost to retrofit a typical Dreamliner at $400,000 per plane.
"All Nippon isn't going to be writing the checks for this," Boyd said.
He also doubted that ANA's resumption of Dreamliner service would bring a financial windfall for the San Jose airport.
"One flight a day to Tokyo is not going to pay the mortgage," Boyd said. "It will help, but they're still stuck with a high-cost airport."
ANA President and CEO Osamu Shinobe, nevertheless, called the resumption of San Jose-to-Tokyo service "an important route for ANA, and we expect it to grow."
Contact Dan Nakaso at 408-271-3648. Follow him at Twitter.com/dannakaso.
Beginning Friday, ANA passengers can book San Jose-to-Tokyo flights by calling 800-235-9262 or visiting fly-ana.com. ANA will fly from Mineta San Jose International Airport to Toyko's Narita International Airport on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Fares are subject to change but currently range from $980, plus taxes, on weekdays to $1,040, plus taxes, on weekends.