Cargolux Boeing 747-8F
Boeing was set to deliver their first 747-8F to Cargolux on September 19th, but at the last minute, the Luxembourg-based cargo company put the deal on hold and the delivery was postponed. Both Boeing and Cargolux kept quiet and rumors started about the reasoning behind this odd business maneuver. According to Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, who has a 35% stake in Cargolux, the issues stem from the 747-8F being 2.7% less fuel efficient than advertised. Al Baker stated that the issues causing the airline to back out of accepting delivery are related to GE, who built the engines on the 747-8F, and not Boeing. At this point, Cargolux is expected to take ownership of their first 747-8F on October 12th, pending the airlines board approving during their meeting on October 7th.
During a Boeing 777 delivery event for Qatar Airways, Al Baker was asked about Cargolux and their handling of the situation. “Unfortunately, the management of Cargolux did not take the action they should have taken during the process of the aircraft acceptance,” Al-Baker stated according to Bloomberg. “As we sit on the board of Cargolux, we have full right to object if we find something is not fair as far as Cargolux is concerned.”
One of the loudest rumors about this deal was that Qatar Airways was holding Cargolux’s 747-8F hostage for a better compensation deal on their 787 Dreamliners. However, Al Baker clearly stated that the Cargolux 747-8F delay has nothing to do with compensation for the 787 Dreamliner. “The issue really with this aircraft has nothing to do with Boeing. It has to do with an issue that we had with the engine manufacturer,” Al Baker said according to the Seattle PI. “This issue has been resolved” subject to board approval.
GE has already announced that they are working on a Performance Improvement Package (PIP) for the the GEnx-2B engine found on the 747-8. The package is not slated to be ready until mid-2013.
Even with all the issues that Qatar and Cargolux have recently had with Boeing, according to ArabianBusiness.com, Al-Baker described his relationship with Boeing as strong, “despite a few hiccups along the way.” At this point, it is not certain what the delivery celebration will entail and Boeing is waiting until after the October 7th board meeting to announce any plans.
Atlas Air Boeing 747-8F N852GT inside the Boeing Factory.
More troubling news for Boeing’s 747-8 Freighter program today. Atlas Air has announced that they have terminated orders for three Boeing 747-8Fs, “due to delays and performance considerations.” The three aircraft they cancelled are test aircraft that end up being less efficient than later 747-8Fs produced.
Jim Proulx with Boeing communications told Business Week that Atlas Air’s decision is “absolutely unrelated” to Cargolux delaying their first 747-8 delivery. “Though the first airplanes off the line are slightly short of expectations, these early-build models nonetheless will be great airplanes with unparalleled efficiency and low costs. As with all programs, we’ll continue to focus on performance improvements that increase the value these airplanes will bring to our customers.”
Atlas Air will still received nine 747-8Fs through 2013.
William J. Flynn, President and Chief Executive Officer of Atlas Air Worldwide, said via press release that, “As prudent asset managers, terminating the first three aircraft was the right decision for our fleet, our customers and our stockholders. We expect the remaining 747-8Fs in our order to be better-performing aircraft than those we have terminated.”
The first three 747-8Fs delivered to Atlas will be contracted out to British Airways, where the next two will enter service with Panalpina. With the additional new 747s, Atlas plans to retire five of their Boeing 747-200s that they currently operate.
This comes on the heels of Atlas Air’s stock dropping 13%, after an analyst downgraded their shares from “buy” to “neutral.” The concern stems from the down economy. Could this have been less about the efficiency differences of the 747-8F or a good excuse for Atlas to take delivery of less aircraft without penalty?
There is still no word on when Cargolux will take delivery of their two Boeing 747-8Fs.
Jim Prouix with Boeing Communications explained what Boeing is currently planning to do with the three aircraft involved in Atlas’ change of contract to AirlineReporter.com. “We are working to place the airplanes with other customers.”
Prouix also reiterated that Boeing’s dealings with Cargolux and Atlas are separate. “The decisions by Atlas and Cargolux were independent and involved distinct contracts and issues. We continue to work through unresolved contractual issues with Cargolux and look forward to delivering its airplanes.”
In March 2010, Atlas Air started operating the Boeing 747 Dreamlifters. It was strongly suspected that this deal was part of a compensation package to Atlas for the delays of the Boeing 747-8F. Boeing stated that “Atlas’ Dreamlifter contract is not at issue in this matter.”
Image: Jon Ostrower