8:59 AM

A shot between
the eyes for A380
Freighter program

The one thing Fedex knows something about is time. When every second of every day counts, the last thing you want to do if you want to sell FedEx very large freighters is to delay their order. And that is exactly what Airbus has done, causing FedEx to announce its decision Tuesday to cancel firm orders for 10 A380s, as well as 10 options.

With only two players in the flying freighter game, you could almost see this one coming months ago:

Instead, FedEx will order 15 Boeing 777 freighters and take options on 15 more. The firm Boeing orders would be worth about $3.48 billion at list prices. The first of the 777s will be delivered to FedEx in 2009.
FedEx is the world's largest express transport company, and flies a ton of Airbus products every night. They currently operate 56 Airbus A300-600s and 66 A310s, joining their 90 DC-10 and MD-10s and 58 MD-11s in that crazy aerial dance that happens every night as their fleet races each other inbound to MEM. Just how crazy is that dance? Take a look around 8 PM any weeknight at this web page I’ve created and look near the middle of the page where the inbound IFR traffic to MEM is shown…in real-time. You'll also see real-time inbounds to ORD, ATL, LAX, JFK, SFO and others, and will easily see how Fedex's traffic seriously pours into Tennessee each evening.

The decision to cancel their Airbus orders by Fedex might look like a fatal blow to the A380 freighter program, but industry experts believe UPS – which has orders for 10 A380 freighters – may move up into the vacated Fedex delivery positions, however:
If UPS cannot wait until possibly 2010 to take delivery, those same industry experts are reporting that UPS may also cancel their A380 positions and move those orders to Boeing's new 747-8, a bigger and more efficient version of the 747-400 that UPS has in its fleet.
If that happens, if Airbus loses the only two major freight haulers in the sky, expect Airbus to cancel the A380 program… maybe forever.

It is stories like this that makes me very glad I am not a top manager at Airbus. Their Board Room must be a very stressful place when the subject is vanishing orders for the A380. Should the passenger carriers also begin pulling their positions, the flying behemoth that has always – in my mind – been just too damn big anyway, may have the possibility of becoming obsolete before the first unit ever hits a ramp.

You Might Also Like