Machinists strike hits air-cargo firm hard
The effects of the Machinists strike are rippling out to Boeing's customers around the world. A nearly completed 747 freighter stuck inside...
Seattle Times aerospace reporter
The effects of the Machinists strike are rippling out to Boeing's customers around the world.
A nearly completed 747 freighter stuck inside the Everett factory has put pressure on a Luxembourg air-cargo company, with management contemplating furloughs for some employees.
Yet the airline still expects within the next couple of months to be a launch customer for the new 747 Advanced version of Boeing's jumbo jet.
Cargolux Airlines already flies 13 Boeing 747 freighters and was due to get another this month, in time for its peak pre-Christmas season.
It hired a team of pilots, ground staff and cargo handlers just for the new airplane. But with the Machinists union at Boeing on strike, there's no telling when it will be delivered.
That leaves the air-freight company badly short of the cargo capacity it committed to in long-term contracts.
"We will be hit very hard," said Ulrich Ogiermann, Cargolux president and chief executive. "It creates a lot of stress for us. We are going to offer people unpaid leave."
Due to peak demand, it's hard to find interim cargo capacity to tide the company over, he said.
"We trust Boeing will sort out the labor issue," he said, "but short term, we will have a problem."
The strike, however, has not affected Cargolux's plans to help launch the 747 Advanced.
Boeing has not yet officially committed to build the jumbo derivative, which would use the new, efficient engines designed for the 787 and challenge Airbus' superjumbo A380.
Failure to go ahead would mean the eclipse of Boeing in the large aircraft category and the end of the line for the iconic jumbo jet.
In an interview at the Cargo Facts annual aircraft symposium yesterday in Seattle, Ogiermann expressed confidence a launch will come in the next few months. "There's a lot of momentum building in the marketplace," Ogiermann said.
Cargolux announced in July it wants at least 10 of the new jets.
Ogiermann said the A380F, the freighter version of Airbus' superjumbo that will carry 165 tons, is ideal for the big package-delivery carriers United Parcel Service and FedEx, because it packs in a huge volume of less dense cargo.
But he said the 747 Advanced Freighter, which would carry 147 tons of cargo, better suits airlines like his, which haul denser, heavy loads.
It could also more easily handle oversize cargo such as engines — "big and ugly cargo," Ogiermann called it — because the 747 nose swings open for loading.
Ogiermann said he thinks the 747 Advanced would force older, gas-guzzling freighters out of service.
With its fuel bill this year set to exceed $500 million, Cargolux could save $80 million to $100 million per year if it had 10 of the 747 Advanced jets, Ogiermann said.
Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or firstname.lastname@example.org