Qatar Airways is poised to take delivery of 40 new aircraft in 2020. This will be the most aircraft received in a single year by Qatar Airways and, according to Qatar’s CEO, the most received by any airline in a single year. The record-breaking delivery numbers come despite the Doha based airline posting a string of losses including USD$639 million in the last financial year.
A report yesterday in The Peninsula Qatar quotes Qatar Airways CEO, Akbar Al Baker, responding to a question at a press conference on Tuesday, October 22, 2019. Mr Al Baker said;
“Up to now, we are getting around on an average 35-36 airplanes a year. Next year we are earmarked to get over 40 aircraft. This will be the highest 12-month aircraft delivery to Qatar Airways. I don’t think there is any other airline in the world that is taking 40 aircraft in a year.”
A big order book for Qatar Airways
Qatar Airways has a total of 195 aircraft on order, split fairly evenly between Airbus and Boeing. In 20i1, Qatar Airways placed an order for 50 A320neos which it swapped over for A321neos worth USD$6.35 billion in 2017. The initial two aircraft from this order were due for delivery this year but so far none have entered service. Earlier this year, Qatar converted 10 of the A321neos in this order to the A321neo(LR) in order to open up new, long skinny routes and provide additional frequency on some existing routes.
Mr Al Baker’s airline was the launch customer for the A350-1000 and has an outstanding order for 33 more. Qatar Airways has been progressively rolling them out on both key routes, such as the Doha – Sydney route, and some surprisingly obscure secondary routes such as Doha – Adelaide.
That’s 83 aircraft in total Airbus will be painting in Qatar livery over the next few years. The remainder of Mr Al Baker’s aircraft deliveries are coming from Boeing.
Plenty of work for Boeing
There is an outstanding order for 15 Boeing 737-8MAXs. The first was due to be sent to Doha in April this year but given the problems with the 737 MAX, Qatar Airways hit the pause button. Whilst Mr Al Baker says he has “full confidence” in Boeing and the MAX program, Qatar Airways won’t be taking any until the aircraft is cleared to fly again.
In 2015, Qatar Airways placed an order for ten Boeing 777-8Xs, another trouble-plagued aircraft. The order was worth USD$4.8 billion at list prices and the first delivery was set to happen in 2020. That won’t be happening. The Boeing 777-8X may be dead in the water before it even starts to fly. Production of the airline is rumored to be contingent on what Qantas decides regarding its Project Sunrise order.
The 777-8X order was on top of an order for 50 Boeing 777-9Xs made in 2014. That order was worth nearly USD$19 billion. Again, deliveries were slated to start in 2020.
In 2016, Qatar also placed an order for 30 Boeing 787-9s and 10 Boeing 777-300ERS. There’s also an order for five Boeing 777 freighters.
More than Qatar Airways needs?
It is an impressively expensive and wide-ranging order book. Most of these orders were placed either when Qatar Airways was performing okay financially or just entering its downward financial trajectory. Disregarding the problems and delays with the 737MAX and 777X programs, it has positioned Qatar Airways to receive possibly more aircraft than it really needs in the next couple of years.
Still, CEO Akbar Al Baker is a bullish type of character. Rather than pulling back and restraining spending in light of the airline’s current financial issues, his modus operandi seems to be to push forward and hope you come out the other end okay. The record amount of aircraft deliveries coming to Qatar Airways in 2020 accords with that nicely.