Industry speculation that Cargolux's 747-8F contractual wrangle with Boeing is linked to a lingering dispute between 35% shareholder Qatar Airways and the US airframer about 787 compensation is unfounded, Flightglobal has learned.

Sources said the dispute is more likely centred on how General Electric is handling the engine upgrades required to address performance deficits in the 747-8's GEnx-2B engines.

Cargolux informed Boeing less than three days before its first 747-8F was due to be handed over at a glitzy ceremony in Seattle on 19 September that it was suspending the acceptance process. Both the airline and the airframer blamed the last-minute U-turn on "unresolved contractual issues", and Cargolux said the decision to reject the delivery of its first two 747-8s was made at a board of directors meeting on 16 September.

Speculation among some industry observers linked the move to influence from newly installed shareholder Qatar Airways and its desire to use the Cargolux delivery as a way to bring Boeing to bear regarding compensation for its 787 delivery delays.

However, sources indicate that there is no dispute between Qatar Airways and Boeing in respect of 787 delay compensation. Sources point to a more likely influence being Qatar Airways' knowledge of the 747-8 performance shortfall and related compensation terms as a result of managing the purchase of two 747-8I VIP aircraft for the Qatar government. GE and Boeing are developing a performance improvement package (PIP) to address just over half of the 2.7% fuel burn shortfall suffered by the 747-8's GEnx-2B67.

However, service-entry of the PIP is believed to be at least two years away - with customers being asked to pay for the upgrade. The engine will need additional upgrades to redress the balance of the performance deficit, and there is the prospect of an additional charge being made for this PIP.

Boeing and Cargolux declined to comment on the status of the negotiations, beyond saying that they were "continuing to work" on the deliveries and were in "constructive dialogue". Qatar Airways declined to comment about the speculation regarding its influence on the talks.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news