LONDON (CNNfn) - Airbus Industrie said Thursday it is in talks with Atlas Air Inc., the world's third-largest cargo carrier, about the sale of A380 superjumbo cargo planes.|
Success for Airbus would come as an especially severe blow to Seattle-based rival Boeing Co. (BA: Research, Estimates), as it would be the first time Atlas, the world's biggest operator of Boeing 747 freighters, had bought Airbus planes.
Airbus has been attempting to break Boeing's 30-year stranglehold on the jumbo market. The European firm would not disclose the number of planes being discussed, but the cargo version of the A380 has a list price of $230 million.
Purchase, New York-based Atlas is one of 20 airlines that has been helping Airbus with the development of the A380. Fellow carrier FedEx Corp., the world's largest express delivery company, is also in talks to buy the Airbus A380-100F freighter.
Airbus would not comment on a Wall Street Journal report that FedEx would agree to buy 10 aircraft worth $2.3 billion in the next two weeks.
United Parcel Services Inc., the world's biggest freight company, earlier this week ordered 60 Airbus A300-600 freighter aircraft.
Atlas contends that the air freight market is set to boom as many passenger airlines, such as British Airways PLC (BA-), shift their fleets toward smaller aircraft on long-haul routes to try to use capacity more profitably.
Many of the A380 freighter aircraft will be used on routes between the U.S. and the Pacific Rim region. The aircraft, still on the drawing board, will have a capacity of 150 metric tons stored on three decks. Boeing's 747-400F can carry 118 metric tons.
Toulouse, France-based Airbus last month announced its decision to go ahead with development of the A380 after winning 50 firm orders for the 555-seat passenger aircraft from six operators - Air France SA (PAIR), Dubai-based Emirates Airlines, International Lease Finance Corp (AIG: Research, Estimates), Australia's Qantas Airways, Singapore Airlines Ltd. and Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic. The new plane will be the world's biggest passenger jet.
Boeing is trying to drum up interest in its own expanded jumbo airliner, the 747X, but has not yet announced any orders.
Airbus is 80 percent owned by European Aeronautic, Defense & Space Co. (PEAD), 20 percent by British weapons builder BAE Systems (BA-).