Atlas not ruling out more 747-8F orders

Washington DC
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Atlas Air has not ruled out exercising its options for the Boeing 747-8 freighter, despite cancelling orders for three aircraft earlier this year and remaining in talks with Boeing over compensation for delays to the programme.

The carrier announced in September that it had terminated orders for three 747-8Fs that were initially part of a 12-aircraft order placed in September 2006.

Atlas had said that compared to the three terminated aircraft, the remaining nine it has left on order are "better-performing" but did not elaborate on what the differences were.

The carrier's chief financial officer Spencer Schwartz reiterated in a 3 November earnings call that the three cancelled 747-8Fs were "lesser-performing aircraft". "That's why between the delays and performance considerations, we cancelled those aircraft," he said.

"The aircraft that we are taking are later produced, better performing aircraft," added Schwartz.

Atlas took delivery of its first 747-8F on 2 November, and will take two more later this year. Four more 747-8Fs will be delivered to the airline in 2012, with two in the first half of the year and another two in the second. The remaining two will be delivered in the first half of 2013.

The carrier has options for 14 more 747-8Fs and said it will "have time, in terms of our horizon, if we want to buy more -8s".

Despite the cancellation of the three aircraft, Schwartz and carrier president and CEO William Flynn believe the 747-8F will meet the airline's needs.

"The aircraft is up, it's flying, and it's going to provide a very meaningful stair-step performance improvement," said Schwartz.

When asked about compensation for delays to the delivery, Flynn said the airline has not completed its negotiations with Boeing. "That continues with Boeing. That said, we took delivery of the aircraft without those discussions being completed, because we needed to put the aircraft to work for British Airways. We continue with discussions with Boeing to address the contractual differences between us," he added.