Qantas has cancelled an order for 15 Boeing Dreamliner 787 aircraft worth $3bn.
The cancellation will come as a bitter blow to Boeing, as the Australian carrier had been the biggest customer for its revolutionary new aircraft.
The news follows Boeing’s announcement this week that it was delaying the launch of the Dreamliner for the fifth time after discovering structure weakness in the fuselage.
Qantas cited worsening economic conditions, rather than the delays, for pulling the order which it had placed in December 2005, although admitted that it would be happier taking delivery of the aircraft once Boeing was further down the production path and had fixed any glitch in the process.
Alan Joyce, chief executive of Qantas, said: “The agreement we have reached with Boeing will provide greater certainty going forward in terms of our fleet renewal and growth strategies as well as broader resource planning and matching capacity with demand.”
The “operating environment for the world’s airlines has clearly changed dramatically since then,” Qantas said.
The long-range, medium-sized Dreamliner is already more than two years behind schedule.
The airline’s maiden flight had been due to take place on 30 June, but Boeing said it had now been delayed because of a need to reinforce a side section of the plane.
Boeing has received more than 800 orders for the Dreamliner, the planemaker’s fastest selling model, and its first new aircraft since 1995.
The 787 has cost $10 billion to develop and is seen as a bid by Boeing to regain its crown from Airbus as the world’s most innovative and successful builder of commercial airplanes.
The mid-sized plane is designed to fly long distances and use 20 percent less fuel than other similarly-sized aircraft. A large proportion of the fuselage and the wing are made from carbon composite materials, making it lighter and therefore more fuel-efficient. The jets will feature larger windows, higher humidity and higher air pressure to help offset jet lag.