Here’s an expanded version of a story we did for Commercial Aviation Online/Air Transport Intelligence:
The embarrassing last minute refusal by Cargolux air cargo to accept delivery of the first Boeing 747-8F that was planned in elaborate ceremonies 19 September is due to more than it appears on the surface, say several sources at the ISTAT European conference that got underway Sunday night (18 September) in Barcelona.
No source would be identified due to the sensitive nature of the situation and the underlying issues triggering the refusal—an overweight airplane and one that doesn’t meet promised fuel burn specifications—are real and potentially affecting future customer deliveries. But sources are universal in concluding that a new element in the Cargolux situation emerged last week to trigger the refusal.
Qatar Airways now owns 35% of Cargolux and following a board meeting, the decision was made to refuse delivery of the Cargolux aircraft pending renegotiation of the compensation Boeing would pay Cargolux for the performance shortfalls.
According to one source familiar with the situation, Cargolux and Boeing had the framework of compensation largely agreed. But after Qatar acquired its stake in Cargolux, a new dynamic entered the picture: compensation for the Boeing delays of the 787 deliveries to Qatar.
According to the scenario painted by multiple sources at the ISTAT conference, Qatar’s CEO Akbar Al-Bakar views the Cargolux compensation as essentially setting a benchmark for his 787s at Qatar. Not wanting to set this benchmark too low as it relates to 787 delays, Al-Baker influenced the last-minute Cargolux position that resulted in the last-minute contract disputes that Boeing acknowledged existed but declined to detail.
Al-Baker history of bedeviling OEMs is well known. He embarrassed Boeing at the 2009 Paris Air Show by forcing Boeing to rescind an order announcement of the 777 that had been issued. He embarrassed Bombardier and Pratt & Whitney at the 2010 Farnborough Air Show by failure to go forward with a widely expected order for the Bombardier CSeries aircraft powered by the Pratt & Whitney P1000G Geared Turbo Fan engine. He embarrassed Airbus by no-showing at a press conference at the 2011 Paris Air Show at which Qatar was to announce a large order for A380s and A320neos, as well as publicly chastising Airbus over its revised A350-1000. His about-faces have earned him the industry nickname U-Turn Al.
Related to the performance shortfalls of the 747-8F, which have been known to customers for at least a year as production proceeded, but unrelated to the Cargolux situation, CAO has learned that another major customer and Boeing remain in negotiations over delivery of a major order of the new freighter. The customer doesn’t want the early 747-8Fs contracted for, instead preferring to skip to a later group that have in-line production improvements rather than rework. These negotiations continue and may come to fruition as early as this week, says a source familiar with the situation.