DOZENS of long-haul flights have been ordered to stay within 60 minutes of an airport due to fears over faulty engines.
British Airways and Virgin services have been hit by premature wear and tear in Rolls-Royce turbine fans.
The Trent 1000 engines have been called in for inspection, leading the Federal Aviation Administration to issue the 60-minute order worldwide.
It applies to Boeing 787-9 craft capable of carrying 344 passengers.
BA and Virgin each have 17.
The rival carriers have had to fly alternate routes and tear up schedules.
A senior BA source said: “It’s caused a major planning headache and is disastrous PR.
“Who wants to get on a plane which is not allowed to fly more than 60 minutes from an airport? It sounds like we are not confident in our own safety.”
The problem was identified last year but Rolls-Royce recently ramped up inspections.
Its chief, Warren East, told the Stock Exchange: “We sincerely regret any disruption and are working to minimise this.”
BA operates the aircraft on routes such as London to Abu Dhabi, Atlanta, Beijing, Boston, Delhi, LA, Moscow and Tokyo.
Virgin Atlantic said it has leased four jumbos to keep its schedule running.
Some BA 787-9s are allowed to fly within 180 minutes of the nearest airport, others must pass within 140 minutes of touchdown, but many must fly just 60 minutes from an emergency touchdown.
BA told The Sun: “The safety of our customers and crew is always our top priority and we would never operate an aircraft if it was unsafe to do so.
“Like other airlines around the world, we are carrying out detailed precautionary inspections on Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines on some of our Boeing 787-9s to ensure we meet all the relevant regulatory requirements.