Cargolux 747-8 DRAMA CONTINUES
Will Boeing’s new superjet fuel the ambitions of Europe’s largest air cargo line? Text: Aaron Grunwald — Photo: Christian Aschman/Cargolux
Boeing’s largest ever plane was certified for cargo service by US authorities in August, and the company wasted no time trying to dispatch the first two off the production line to Luxembourg. At press time, however, launch customer Cargolux had “rejected ” delivery of its new 747-8 jumbo jets, scheduled for the week of September 19. The carrier’s board of directors halted delivery due to “unresolved contractual issues” with Boeing, according to Cargo lux chief Frank Reimen. Neither Boeing nor Cargolux revealed the nature of the dispute. However, the freighter said it will “source alternative capacity” if the issue is not resolved soon. The aircraft maker struck a more optimistic note, telling press the planes were ready and it hopes to deliver them soon. Much more than the two jets are at stake. Cargolux had definitive orders for 13 of the giant freighters and various options to acquire 12 more, a spokeswoman told Delano earlier this year. Acquiring up to 25 of the new jets would be a notable move by the company, and was meant to open a new chapter in Cargolux’s history. Today it operates 16 Boeing 747 freighters that are an average of six years old. Running a young, uniform fleet has helped keep costs down. Yet ever increasing oil prices, coupled with a new corporate alliance, are driving the shift in strategy. In September, Qatar Airways acquired 35 percent of Cargolux and the two entered into commercial cooperation.
747-8: ready for takeoff? The $117.5 million stake had previously been held by Swissair Group, but the shares were taken over in a bailout by the Luxembourg state amid financial turbulence in 2009. Cargolux has since retur ned to profitability, while the Grand Duchy will still own much of Cargolux through mostly state-owned Luxair’s 43.4% stake in the all-freight carrier. The ninth largest air freight company globally, Qatar already serves more than 100 cities around the globe, compared with Cargolux’s 90. Its fleet is also larger overall, but comprised of mainly passenger jets with cargo capacity. Analysts say the state-owned Middle Eastern carrier is keen to expand its freight business ahead of its rumoured
2012 IPO. Qatar gains a “virtual” EU hub at well-run Findel and can feed new Europe-Asia traffic through its own massive Doha base. As late as June, Cargolux expected its first 747-8F to be delivered “in late summer.” However, Boeing did not announce American government approval until August 19, causing the schedule to slip. Delayed deliveries In fact, the carrier was originally set to receive the first plane in 2009, but design problems pushed back the delivery date by two years. Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner passenger jet is currently three years behind its launch schedule.
42 - delano - October 2011
23.09.2011 10:38:35 Uhr