UPS bales out of A380 Freighter

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Last customer for cargo version of ultra-large airliner cites uncertainties over delivery schedule for decision to cancel

Airbus is set to lose its remaining A380 Freighter customer, United Parcel Service (UPS), due to concerns over the airframer's ability to honour the new delivery schedule agreed last month.

The US carrier announced at the end of last week its "intent to cancel" its order for 10 A380Fs. Late last month, UPS and Airbus reached agreement to reschedule its deliveries from 2010-12 to 2012-13. That agreement also allowed either party to cancel the order later this year, and UPS now says that "the final cancellation decision will be formally presented to Airbus on the first date specified" under this deal.

The carrier adds that it "had intended to complete an internal study of whether it could wait until 2012 for the aircraft, but now understands that Airbus is diverting employees from the A380 freighter programme to work on the passenger version". Airbus says that although the freighter development programme has been "interrupted" the variant remains on offer: "We are confident about the size of the cargo market for the A380F. When the market is there, we will resume the programme."

Last year, FedEx Express cited uncertainty over Airbus's ability to achieve its new delivery schedule as the prime reason for its A380F cancellation, and according to UPS Airline president David Abney, the same concerns were behind its change of heart: "Based on our previous discussions, we had felt that 2012 was a reasonable estimate of when Airbus could supply this plane," he says. "We no longer are confident that Airbus can adhere to that schedule."

UPS is tight-lipped on its fall-back plan to fill the void that the cancellation of the 150t payload A380Fs would leave. The carrier could follow FedEx and order one of the Boeing widebody freighter types according to sources, it is evaluating the 747-8F and 777F.

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