As part of its drastic fleet reductions, Qatar Airways is returning four A350 aircraft leased from Latin American carrier LATAM. The homecoming operation is reportedly well underway, with the four aircraft pretty much traveling in convoy across the Atlantic. They are expected to arrive between 05:30 and 07:00 at Confins Airport in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on Thursday.
Part of Qatar’s fleet reduction
As Qatar CEO Akbar al-Baker believes that travel demand will not bounce back for another three years, his airline is looking to reduce its pre-corona fleet. When doing so, it comes as no surprise that the first aircraft to go are those leased from other carriers.
On Thursday, the four A350s Qatar has leased from LATAM Airlines for the past three years will be returning to its owner on the South American continent. As reported by Pontos E Viagens, flights QR3263, QR3265, QR3267, and QR3261 will be arriving at Confins International Airport in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, early in the morning local time on May 21st.
Delayed deliveries created a need for leases
Qatar Airways was the first-ever airline to fly the Airbus A350. The plane’s launch customer took delivery of its first aircraft of the model in December 2014. It has since operated a total of 56 A350s and has another seven on order.
As the airline experienced delays for deliveries of its large order for the widebody jets, it decided to lease four of them from LATAM in February 2017. According to One Mile At A Time, the planes were re-registered with Qatar registration numbers and painted in a LATAM/Qatar hybrid livery.
The configuration of the LATAM A350s also differed quite a bit from Qatar’s version. When arriving in Qatar a little over three years ago, the LATAM planes had 348 seats, including 30 business class seats, 18 premium economy seats, and 300 economy seats. Qatar’s set-up has 283 seats, of which 247 are economy and 36 business.
Business-class was a 2-2-2 configuration, in comparison to Qatar’s A350 reverse herringbone business class seats with direct aisle access for all passengers.
The leased aircraft operated Qatar’s Doha to Munich and Madrid routes since joining the fleet in March, April, and May 2017.
What will LATAM do?
While it may provide maintenance and parking cost relief for Qatar, the added financial burden on already struggling carrier LATAM is certainly not of any help. It is unclear what will happen to the A350s upon their return. Perhaps they could go to the South American giant’s new joint venture partner Delta Air Lines, as it just recently took over LATAM’s order for ten of the aircraft?
Back in February, pre-crisis, LATAM drastically reduced that order from the initially requested 25. Hence, it will most certainly not need the four A350s now in the immediate post-COVID reality.
What do you think will become of the four A350s? Will they appear in another livery in the near future? Could they be reconfigured and deployed as freighters? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Simple Flying has sought both Qatar and LATAM for a comment but was yet to receive a reply at the time of publication.