In an interview on Wednesday, the CEO of Qatar Airways confirmed that the Gulf carrier had reached an agreement with Airbus for the deferral of aircraft deliveries. Discussions are still ongoing with rival Boeing, the outcome of which could determine whether or not the manufacturer will retain Qatar as a customer in the future.
Following the extraordinary circumstances of the past few months, Qatar Airways finds itself in the position of the world’s de facto largest international airline. However, not even a carrier with that title wants to accept new planes into its fleet at the moment.
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Orders for nearly 80 aircraft
After months of lengthy and arduous negotiations, Qatar has reached an agreement with Airbus to delay delivery of the jets it has on order. At the (online) CAPA Australia Pacific Aviation Summit on Wednesday, Qatar CEO Akbar Al Baker said that the airline had concluded its negotiations and discussions with the European planemaker.
Meanwhile, Qatar maintains the possibility to bring forward the deliveries again, should air travel demand rebound quicker than expected. The airline currently has orders for 27 widebody A350-1000s and 50 narrowbody A321neos.
Flexibility, or no more business
Mr Al Baker expressed appreciation for Airbus’ flexibility in the face of “contractual difficulties.” However, the Qatar CEO also reiterated his hardline stance towards other manufacturers wishing to retain Qatar Airways as a customer in the future.
“As far as Boeing is concerned, we are still in negotiations with them, but regardless of what they feel, an aircraft manufacturer needs to oblige customers in difficult times. (…) People who will not oblige and stand with us in this difficult time will not see us again,” Al Baker said. “We are all in the same boat, and so we have to help each other.”
Qatar currently has orders with Boeing for a full 60 of the new 777X, five of the 777 freighter variant, and 23 of the 787-9 Dreamliner. Discussions with the planemaker are also ongoing about the 737 MAX jets Qatar had bought to lease to Air Italy from which the carrier pulled out.
Travel corridors “nonsense”
In the interview from this morning, Mr Al Baker also called the notion of air travel bubbles “nonsense” and said they were putting additional strain on the industry. He believes that they are either being put in place to benefit certain airlines or that people who are making the decisions are unable to “think outside the box.”
Of course, travel corridors make it more difficult for hub carriers such as Qatar to operate, as travelers are allowed to transfer via a third country.
Do you think it is right of the Qatar CEO to maintain such a harsh stance towards the plane manufacturers? Are delayed deliveries the right way for both planemakers and carriers to make it through the crisis? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.