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Airbus to take industrial decision on future of A380F 'within days' as UPS extra thinking time ticks on

Airbus admitted yesterday that the future of the A380 Freighter could be decided in the next few days, with the decision by remaining customer UPS to delay taking delivery of the its order for 10 of the type past 2010 potentially affecting the industrial decision to launch the type.

Airbus has reached an agreement with UPS to change the delivery dates for the 10 A380 freighters it has on order, and to allow the US cargo operator more time to make a decision on whether to proceed with or cancel its order.

UPS says the agreement specifies changed delivery dates and provides for possible termination of the original purchase agreement by either party later this year. UPS was originally scheduled to take delivery of the freighters between 2009 and 2012. The cargo operator does not disclose the new delivery dates contained in the agreement for the delayed aircraft.

Airbus chief executive Louis Gallois said yesterday in Toulouse that the delay could make the development of the freighter variant commercially unviable. "UPS will probably postpone to the next decade the delivery of the aircraft - we will have to take that into account. Probably we will take an industrial decision on the A380F in the next days. We want to keep open the possibility of reopening manufacturing."

Airbus has already made some key subassemblies for the freighter. Development of a higher gross weight passenger variant is also linked to the A380F programme.

“UPS’ decision to purchase the A380 freighter was based on a lengthy evaluation of our future network needs to meet customer demands across a variety of global trade lanes,” says UPS vice president of airline and international operations Bob Lekites.

“Those needs still exist and UPS has been carefully evaluating various options since Airbus announced production delays late last year.”

He adds the agreement reached with Airbus allows UPS “additional time to evaluate our network requirements and make a decision once and for all as to how best to ensure service to our customers”. That extra time is expected to run out some time in early March.

UPS is Airbus’ only A380 freighter customer following the loss of an order held by FedEx and the conversion to A380 passenger variants by Emirates and International Lease Finance (ILFC). The freighter programme once had 27 firm orders.

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