Qatar Airways already flies with one of the youngest fleets in the world. Its investment in new technology aircraft has been continuous, and with each new aircraft that has been unveiled has come an order from the Doha-based airline. Group CEO Akbar Al Baker wants this trend to continue, noting that, as and when a successor to the 787 and A350 are launched, he’ll be at the front of the queue to sign up for it.
A youthful fleet
The fleet of Qatar Airways is one of the youngest in the world. The airline has always been at the front of the queue for new technology aircraft, becoming the launch customer for both the A350-900 and the A350-1000. The airline was one of the first to order the new 777X, and an early committer to the A321neo.
Today, the average fleet age is under seven years old. With 158 firm aircraft orders yet to be delivered, Qatar continues to refresh its fleet to maintain a youthful lineup. Speaking exclusively with Simple Flying, Group CEO Akbar Al Baker stated that this is a trend he hopes to continue. He said,
“Qatar Airways fleet is very young … we don’t let the average fleet age to exceed 10 years. We are committed to continue to do that.
“If tomorrow, Airbus or Boeing introduced a new generation airplane, we will immediately sign for it to replace our current 787s and A350s. We will continuously invest for the future generation in order that we keep on reducing our carbon emissions.”
The Group CEO didn’t name specific aircraft, and at present, there is no new offering on the table from either of the main OEMs. However, should the NMA make an appearance, or indeed the A322, providing those aircraft have efficiency improvements, you can bet Qatar will be at the front of the queue.
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Urging investment in R&D
While both OEMs have brought new aircraft to the table, with significant improvements over the previous generation, only the A350 and 787 Dreamliner have been clean sheet upgrades. The Group CEO urged manufacturers to continue investing in research so that airlines like Qatar can continue growth without being irresponsible to the environment. He commented,
“At the same time as the airline is investing huge amounts in new technology aeroplanes, I would also ask the OEMs, the aircraft manufacturers, engine manufacturers, fuel suppliers to invest in R&D to come up with new technology that is available, but is expensive.
“They need to invest the windfall profits they make when they sell aeroplanes, in order to protect our environment and help airlines like Qatar Airways, to reduce emissions and to have growth with zero emission increase when we are expanding.”
Clean sheet narrowbody designs are well overdue from both manufacturers. While Airbus has targeted a new carbon zero aircraft within the next decade, firm plans are still some years away.
Biofuels are part of the process
As well as encouraging investment in research on the hardware side, Al Baker spoke passionately about the need to make biofuels more affordable. He noted that any investment in new engines and new aircraft would be fully complemented if sustainable aviation fuels were a realistic proposal. He said,
“It is a double-edged sword – you have to invest in technology, and you have to invest in new biofuels for example. Now biofuels are available, but it is four or five times more expensive than avgas, which means that if we get into that, a passenger will not be able to afford to fly anymore.
“It is extremely important for fuel companies to realize this, and invest in order for them to make biofuels available at affordable prices for us to purchase.”
For now, Qatar Airways will continue investing in its fleet to keep its age low and its carbon footprint lower. However, it’s clear that the airline will be one of the first to support any game-changing development in terms of new technology and fuel options; all it needs now is for the industry to catch up.