Qatar Airways has told Boeing that it won’t be taking up its order for 30 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, according to the airline’s CEO, Akbar al-Baker. He mentioned that the airline now does not need the type, following the withdrawal of its investment in the aircraft’s target airline.
Airlines across the world have been reassessing their Boeing 737 MAX orders following the type’s grounding for the past 15 months. There have been many cancellations as no aircraft have been delivered during this time. However, it looks as though Qatar Airways wishes to cancel its 30 MAX orders for a different reason; the liquidation of Air Italy.
30 MAX on order
In October 2016, Qatar Airways placed one of its most significant aircraft orders. The order was for 787s and 777s. However, it also included a letter of intent for up to 60 737 MAX aircraft.
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Of course, a letter of intent is not binding for either the airline or the manufacturer. For example, IAG currently has a letter of intent with Boeing for up to 200 737 MAXs. However, it has no obligation to take any.
However, Qatar Airways did firm up some of the 737 MAX orders mentioned in the letter of intent. In September 2017, Boeing pointed out that Qatar had “20 737 MAX airplanes on order.” Now, according to Boeing’s current order book as of May 31st, Qatar has ordered and received 5 737 MAX aircraft.
Qatar hasn’t operated any Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Instead, they were operated by Air Italy, of which the carrier held a 49% stake.
Aircraft not required
Earlier today, Qatar’s CEO, Akbar al-Baker, was interviewed on Sky News by Ian King. When asked about his 737 MAX order, he mentioned that the airline had informed Boeing that the MAX was not required. Al-Baker told Sky News,
“We only had 30 [737 MAXs] ordered. We have already informed Boeing that we will have to replace them with some other type of airplane because we had bought it for a particular airline in which we had invested, and we have withdrawn our investment from that airline, so we will not require anymore the 737 MAXs.”
Air Italy was operating the 737 MAX before its grounding, and even proudly showed off the aircraft at the 2018 Farnborough Airshow. However, in February, the Italian airline announced that it would be suspending operations.
The airline didn’t go bankrupt. Instead, it entered a voluntary liquidation process at the decision of its board of directors. As Qatar Airways does not need the 737 MAX itself, it makes sense for the airline to cancel future deliveries. Qatar recently issued a threat to both Boeing and Airbus against resisting deferrals. This was again repeated in the interview with Sky News, as Al Baker said,
“If they don’t oblige to our requirements then we will have to review our long term business relationships with both of them.”
Simple Flying has contacted Boeing for comment regarding this story.
Do you think Qatar Airways is right to ditch its 737 MAX commitments? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!