Luxembourg's Cargolux Airlines International yesterday said it is planning detailed talks to buy the 747 Advanced, a still-to-be-launched...

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Luxembourg’s Cargolux Airlines International yesterday said it is planning detailed talks to buy the 747 Advanced, a still-to-be-launched, updated version of Boeing’s jumbo jet.

The decision by Cargolux might spur Boeing to move forward with launch plans for the new airplane, which would challenge Airbus’ A380. Boeing’s aircraft, which will borrow technology developed for its new 787 jet, will have 30 more seats and be able to carry 15 more tons of freight than the current 747.

Cargolux will discuss buying 10 747 Advanced aircraft for delivery starting in 2009, the company said yesterday. Europe’s fourth-biggest freight carrier, Cargolux has a fleet of 13 Boeing 747s.

“We’re very thrilled that Cargolux has identified the 747 Advanced as the successor to their current fleet of 747 freighters,” Boeing spokeswoman Samantha Solomon said. “This is a strong and welcome endorsement of the capability that the 747 will bring to the market.”

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Airbus was “surprised” that Cargolux had chosen to enter exclusive negotiations for an aircraft that hasn’t been approved for production and also disturbed that Airbus had no chance to make a final offer, Airbus senior salesman Chris Buckley said.

The 747-400 has a list price of $189 million to $227 million. An updated version of the plane would be similarly priced, spokeswoman Leslie Nichols said. The last order for a passenger-version 747 was in November 2002 from Taipei-based China Airlines. First delivery of the 747 Advanced would be around 2008 if Boeing’s board approves building the jet.

Airbus’ 555-seat A380 enters service next year and the freighter version is being readied for 2008. Customers for its A380 freighter so far include package-delivery companies United Parcel Service and FedEx.

Separately yesterday, Boeing announced an order from Spain’s Air Europa for 18 737-800 airliners, valued at $1.2 billion at list prices, and firmed up a contract with SkyEurope Airlines, a Slovakian low-cost carrier, for four 737-700s.

Deliveries of Air Europa’s airliners will begin in 2007, with three new airplanes to be delivered annually, Boeing said in a stock-exchange filing. Air Europa now flies 27 737-800s, two 737-400s and five 767-300s, Boeing said.

Air Europa first announced its intention to order the airplanes, plus purchase rights for an additional 16, last month at the Paris Air Show. Air Europa’s order was already accounted for on the Boeing orders and deliveries Web site, attributed to an unidentified customer.

Boeing also said yesterday that it completed an order, announced earlier this year, with SkyEurope for four 737s, valued at $200 million.