WASHINGTON: Courier giant UPS said on 23 February it reserved the right to abandon Airbus’s superjumbo freighter this year, delivering a potential death blow to the crisis-hit European company’s new cargo plane.
With an order for 10 A380 freighters, the US company is the sole remaining customer for the cargo version of Airbus’s enormous new plane, whose troubled development has created high-level ructions in Europe.
UPS said it had signed a new agreement on 22 February with Airbus which “specifies changed delivery dates for the A380F and provides for possible termination of the original purchase agreement by either party later in 2007.”
On 5 February, UPS unveiled a multibillion-dollar order for 27 Boeing freighter planes, and said the A380 order was subject to an “ongoing review.”
Deliveries of UPS’s 10 A380s were originally scheduled to begin in 2009 and run through 2012. But Airbus has suffered repeated delays on the project, and the cargo version is not due until mid-2010 at the earliest.
Rival delivery firm FedEx scrapped an order for 10 A380F planes last year, and two other carriers have converted their orders for the freighter into the plane’s passenger model.
UPS had said this month it could be liable for cancellation charges if it scraps the order, but Airbus may also have to pay compensation for failing to deliver its plane on time.
Either way, with no customers left, the A380 freighter project would be effectively dead if UPS pulls out.
In its passenger guise, the A380 is now two years behind schedule, with Singapore Airlines due to receive the first passenger version this October.