Airbus's A380 superjumbo hit more turbulence Nov. 7 as U.S. cargo giant FedEx became the first airline to pull out of the troubled project, ordering 15 Boeing 777 aircraft instead. FedEx Corp. said its Express unit had cancelled an order for 10 freighter versions of the European superjumbo "after Airbus announced significant delays in delivery of the A380". Instead, FedEx Express said it was buying 15 new Boeing 777 Freighter planes with options to purchase another 15. No purchase price was given.
Airlines around the world have grumbled at the Airbus delays, but the FedEx decision marks the clearest sign yet of customer displeasure over the European company's failure to stay on schedule for the launch of its flagship plane. The A380 is facing delivery delays of up to two years because of production problems. Singapore Airlines is set to be the first carrier to fly the new plane, but not before October next year at the earliest.
FedEx Express was to have been the first cargo carrier to take delivery of the A380, in August 2008, for use between its U.S. and Asian hubs. But the delays forced it to turn to the smaller Boeing 777.
FedEx Corp. chief executive Frederick Smith said the company had made "significant investments in our network" to meet rapidly growing demand for air cargo. "Therefore, it was necessary and prudent for us to acquire the Boeing 777 Freighter."
"The availability and delivery timing of this aircraft, coupled with its attractive payload range and economics, make this choice the best decision for FedEx, its customers, shareowners and employees," he added.
Airbus is now down to 149 firm orders for the A380 from 15 airlines. The FedEx withdrawal leaves only 15 orders for the freighter version, including 10 from United Parcel Services (UPS).
Airbus's parent, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, has said the delays mean it will now have to sell 420 of the superjumbos to break even on the ambitious project, instead of 270 as previously announced.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006