In the past week, four Boeing 787-9s have flown from Victorville in California to Doha in Qatar for delivery to Qatar Airways. However, it’s not the first time these aircraft have landed at Hamad International, as they previously made the trip in December before promptly returning to the US. Hopefully, this time, they’re there to stay.
The strange story of Qatar’s 787-9s
Middle East carrier Qatar Airways has finally taken delivery of its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. You may remember these aircraft had arrived with the carrier back in December last year, but had immediately returned to Victorville in California to have their interiors fitted.
In fact, the Dreamliners should have been delivered in October 2019, but the airline pushed the delivery back due to difficulties in installing the modified version of its Qsuite product. The highly regarded Qsuite already makes an appearance on its Boeing 777s and Airbus A350s, but its other Dreamliners, all 787-8s, currently have a reverse herringbone business class seat of the previous generation.
The 787-9s, on the other hand, were due to be fitted out with the very latest version of the Qsuite. While not too many details have been revealed about the modified Qsuite, it was thought to be around 22% lighter than that on the 777 and A350.
Having pushed delivery back from October, Qatar ‘officially’ took delivery in December, in what was something of a ridiculous manner. Four 787-9s arrived in Doha on Thursday 26th in the evening, and then a further three arrived across the Atlantic on Saturday. But before the Saturday contingent arrived, the Thursday four had already started back to Victorville, passing each other on route.
Meanwhile there are another 3 Dreamliners for Qatar Airways on delivery from Seattle to Doha
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) December 28, 2019
All seven eventually arrived back in Victorville, where they have been ever since getting their Qsuites and other components fitted. This might seem ridiculous, but it was thought to be nuances around getting the planes registered in Qatar (and exported from the US) that led to this rather bonkers situation.
Final delivery at last
Now, according to CH-Aviation, the Dreamliners have started going back to Doha again. March 23rd saw the delivery of A7-BHC and A7-BHD. They were ferried directly from Victorville to Doha’s Hamad International, arriving just after 17:00 local time.
These first two were followed a few days later by two more. A7-BHE and A7-BHF took flight on March 28th. They arrived in Doha at around 16:00 local time. Presumably, these are all now fitted out with the new and improved Qsuite.
Three Dreamliners are still missing. A7-BHA, BHB and BHG are showing as still being in Victorville. However, with four now delivered (hopefully permanently this time) we can expect to see the final three heading to the Middle East in the next week or so too.
Qatar had ordered a total of 30 787-9 Dreamliners from Boeing in October 2016. The order came alongside an order for 10 more 777-300ERs and was valued at $11.7bn at list prices.
At the time, the airline had also issued a letter of intent for up to 60 737 MAX 8s. However, in more recent statements regarding fleet plans, the MAX has been notably absent, suggesting perhaps this intention will not be carried through.
Qatar is expecting as many as 40 new aircraft to be delivered in 2020. However, in the current challenging climate for airlines, that could end up being more of a curse than a blessing.