As announced last week, Cargolux refused to take delivery of their first two Boeing 747-8 Freighters. They were supposed to take delivery of their first one yesterday and their second one tomorrow, but at this point no one is sure when the deliveries will occur.
Not many people are talking about what is going on. Boeing told me via email, “Nothing new to report. Same status as Friday,” which means, “We have unresolved issues between ourselves and Cargolux. We are working with our customer to determine a date for delivery.” Luckily for us, some journalists have received “insider” information that puts some light on what is going on between Boeing and Cargolux.
At the beginning of this controversy, some thought this might have something to do with the Boeing 747-8F not living up to performance expectations. It appears that performance issues might have something to do with this, but it might be more politically motivated.
Scott Hamilton, with Flightglobal, is reporting that Qatar Airways, who recently purchased a 35% stake in Cargolux, is requiring additional compensation for delays to their Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Previously Qatar and Boeing had an agreement on that compensation, but it appears that Qatar might be looking for a better deal. According to Hamilton’s sources, “Qatar’s chief executive Akbar Al-Baker views the compensation for Cargolux as setting a benchmark for the sum due for the delays to Qatar’s 787s.”
Hamilton is also reporting that that another, unnamed, Boeing 747-8F customer is looking for changes in their contracts. Originally they were slated to take delivery of the first test aircraft (presumably at a lower price), but now are wanting aircraft that will not require re-working after they take delivery.
It seems unlikely that this dispute would only revolve around the Boeing 747-8’s performance issues, since Boeing has been forthcoming about the aircraft’s additional weight for quite some time. In an email to the Puget Sound Business Journal Boeing stated, “It’s misleading to say we missed our specifications. After we set our original specification, we completely redesigned the wing, which is significantly heavier, but more than makes up for that in increased aerodynamic efficiency and lower fuel burn.”
In a press release, issued by Cargolux, they confirmed that they are working with Boeing to resolve contract issues, but are ready to move forward with leasing additional aircraft if needed. “In the event that the issues cannot be resolved in a timely manner, Cargolux will source alternative capacity to fully meet customer demand and expectations ahead of the traditional high season.”
Jon Ostrower on Flightglobal is reporting that delivery of Cargolux’s two 747-8Fs during the week of September 19th-24th is, “highly unlikely.” It doesn’t seem anyone (even Boeing and Cargolux) are sure when the aircraft might be delivered.
Yesterday, Brandon Farris caught a Cargolux Boeing 747-400 landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). It is not unusual to see Cargolux aircraft at SEA, but the timing was a bit off from when they usually fly in. This particular aircraft runs between Mexico (MEX), Atlanta (ATL), New York (JFK), Houston (IAH), and Luxembourg (LUX), but not Seattle. I assume that this 747-400 picked up cargo at SEA that the first Cargolux Boeing 747-8F was supposed to deliver to Luxembourg (where Cargolux is head quartered).
At first, it appeared that Boeing might come off looking like the bad one in this conflict, but if the rumors of Qatar Airways strong arming Boeing into a better deal for the 787s at the expense of Cargolux not receiving their 747-8Fs, then Boeing might not coming off looking so poorly.
I will be sure to keep you all updated as new information surfaces.
Guy Norris, with Aviation Week, goes into detail on what the Boeing 747-8F is lacking as far as performance (thanks @mtrumpbour for pointing this out). He states that there is a 2.7% greater fuel burn than expected. GE is working on a fuel savings package for their GEnx-2B engines on the 747-8F, but those will not be completed until 3rd quarter 2013 and are only expected to improve fuel consumption by 1.6%.
Norris states that Qatar Airway’s deal to purchase a 35% stake occurred in June, 2011, but it took three months to be ratified by the governments of each country. This happened only a few days before the 747-8F deliveries were to take place.
Ostrower, who is currently in Seattle for the 747-8F delivery, caught Boeing doing some interesting 747-8F moving around today at Paine Fieldand posted on his Flickr.
UPDATE 2 9/21 7:30am:
Matt Cawby with KPAE Blog is reporting that one of Cargolux’s Boeing 747-8Fs (LX-VCB) went on a customer test flight, meaning the airline’s pilots were on board. This normally is a sign that Boeing is getting close to delivery. Cawby is hearing rumors that the first aircraft might deliver Tuesday September 27th.
Firdaus Hashim on Flighglobal is reporting that Cathay Pacific Airways is “satisfied” with their 747-8Fs, which they are expected to take delivery of in October. “Cathay Pacific’s commercial arrangements with all its suppliers, including Boeing, are confidential. However, we are satisfied that our commercial arrangements with Boeing take account of the known and disclosed specification and performance characteristics of the aircraft,” said Hong Kong’s flag carrier in a statement.
Thanks to Marshall Autry (Vintage Racer) for letting me use his photo.