Qatar Airways is looking to modernize its long-haul fleet, placing significant orders for next-generation aircraft in recent years. The Middle-Eastern carrier is particularly focusing on Airbus A350, Boeing 777X, and Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. The latter of these types, however, has seen a share of uncertainty since Qatar placed the order. But how exactly has the situation developed since the order was first placed in 2016?
Strong commitment to fleet modernization
The introduction of the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to the Qatar Airways fleet has long been in the pipeline. In October 2016, Boeing announced that, alongside 10 Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, the airline had placed an order for 30 787-9 Dreamliners. The total value for this order amounted to almost $12 billion. The airline was already an operator of the shorter 787-8 variant, with 30 in its fleet having first flown the type commercially in November 2012.
Having been the launch customer for both variants of the Airbus A350, the airline also has a further 28 Airbus A350-1000 aircraft on order. On the whole, these orders represent a real statement of intent from Qatar Airways in terms of modernizing its fleet. This commitment is underlined by the fact it also has plans to retire certain older long-haul aircraft in favor of the new orders in the coming years.
Reuters, for example, reported in March 2019 that the carrier would begin phasing out its Airbus A380 ‘superjumbo’ aircraft once they reach 10 years old. This would see the withdrawals start in 2024. May 2019 also saw CH-Aviation report that Qatar is planning to phase out its Airbus A330 aircraft by 2022. Qatar Airways’ recent orders will see both of these types replaced by more modern and efficient aircraft.
Despite this promising commitment, Qatar Airways’ Boeing 787-9 order has been subject to various issues since being placed almost four years ago. In October 2019, for example, Simple Flying reported that, while the aircraft were ready for delivery from Boeing’s perspective, the airline was still waiting to finalize developments of its new Qsuite business class seat. This product was set to be launched on the carrier’s new Dreamliners.
On Thursday, December 26th, 2019, it looked as if Qatar was ready to begin accepting delivery of the new aircraft. Four of the type flew from Boeing’s Everett factory in Paine Field, Washington, to the Qatari capital of Doha. A further three followed on Saturday 28th.
However, as reported by Simple Flying at the time, the aircraft flew straight back to the USA just a day later. Rather than Boeing’s Paine Field base, however, the new Dreamliners flew to a storage facility in Victorville, California. It is thought that the purpose of flying them to Qatar was merely to have them registered as Qatari aircraft.
Having had Qsuites and other components fitted in Victorville, four of the seven stored aircraft flew back to Qatar for delivery on March 31st this year. The remaining three followed shortly after. However, this occurred just as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic became prevalent to bring commercial air travel worldwide almost to a standstill.
As such, the launch of the airline’s seven delivered Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners has been delayed indefinitely since the end of April. With the remaining 23 aircraft in the order yet to be delivered, and no launch date in sight for those that have been, this saga looks set to carry on for the foreseeable future.
What are your experiences flying on Qatar Airways? When do you think the airline will finally be able to launch its new 787-9s? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.