Boeing’s 777X program could get a much-needed boost with reports Doha-based Qatar Airways is keen on a freighter option. Qatar Airways is looking to increase its fleet of freighters. According to the airline’s CEO, if Boeing were to develop a 777X freighter, Qatar Airways would be very interested.
Boeing yet to confirm a 777X freighter
As reported by Reuters on Thursday, Qatar Airways CEO continues to run the ruler over a prospective freighter order.
“Qatar Airways is very interested in purchasing a large fleet of freighters because we have to now start replacing our old freighters,” said Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker this week.
“We would be very keen to place an order with Boeing or with Airbus. It all depends on how things proceed.”
Mr Al Baker indicated to Reuters that Boeing was now offering a freighter version of the 777X. This contrasts with comments made by Al Baker in April. At the time, he said Boeing was not offering a freighter version of the 777X.
Boeing did not directly address questions put to it by Simple Flying about the prospects of a 777X freighter. Instead, a Boeing spokesperson said;
“We continue to engage with our customers on our product development programs and their long-term fleet needs for the cargo and passenger markets.”
Qatar Airways CEO has previously expressed interest in a 777X freighter
Qatar Airways has an existing order for 60 Boeing passenger configured 777Xs. The 777X has been beset with production delays and delivery deferrals, exasperating many airline customers. In an exclusive interview with Simple Flying in May, Al Baker said he expected deliveries to start sometime in 2022. In the same interview, he also confirmed he was keen on a freighter version of the 777X.
“Definitely, we will be at the front of the queue,” the Qatar Airways CEO said. “We will soon be required to replace our current fleet of the freighters, and we would want to replace it with the best freighter that is available. We would be very happy to be the launch customer.”
Qatar Airways puts some pressure on Airbus
A tactical Akbar Al Baker may be using his comments to Reuters this week to put some pressure on Boeing’s European competitor, Airbus. Qatar Airways operates a mixed fleet of both Boeing and Airbus aircraft. While Al Baker has gone cool on the Airbus A380, its A350 remains one of his preferred planes.
But Qatar Airways fired a few shots at Airbus this week while speaking at St Petersburg in Russia. Talking about a contractual dispute relating to undisclosed production issues that could delay aircraft deliveries, Al Baker was blunt.
“Airbus need to get real, and they need to know that this problem will create industrial repercussions for them,” Reuters reports the CEO saying.
“The ball is in their court to fix the problem we have with them, and it is up to them to resolve this as soon as possible before things can get a bit out of hand.”
Al Baker denied reports the dispute concerned paint peeling off some A350 aircraft the airline had received. Qatar Airways is flying 53 A350s and has a further 23 on order according to airline database ch-aviation.
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A Bloomberg report earlier this week quotes Al Baker saying his airline would not accept new aircraft from Airbus unless the problem were sorted.
“If we are not able to settle that serious issues we have with them, we will refuse to take any aircraft from them.”
This is not the first time Akbar Al Baker has made this threat. Both Boeing and Airbus have heard this threat before. This week’s pro-Boeing 777 comments may be as much about applying pressure to Airbus as stating any particular preference for a future freighter order. After all, despite what the Qatar Airways CEO says, Boeing is yet to confirm they will manufacture a 777X freighter.