Earlier this month, Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker, revealed that the airline is looking to order approximately 30 cargo planes as part of a fleet renewal program. With Qatar Airways’ current cargo fleet consisting of all-Boeing planes, Al Baker claims the airline will consider both Boeing and Airbus freighter options.
Eyeing up a Boeing 777X freighter
Although Boeing has not officially confirmed plans for a 777X freighter variant, interest has been high among potential customers, including Qatar Airways. With the passenger 777X set to enter service in 2023, Simple Flying explored the possibility of a 777X freighter that would take advantage of the plane’s improved efficiency and engines.
Boeing has discussed the possibility before, with internal communications from 2015 suggesting a freighter variant would utilize the frame of the smaller 777-8. According to Boeing, a 777X freighter would likely follow 18-24 months after the passenger variant enters service. The passenger 777X is expected to enter service in 2023, which would make a freighter variant likely to hit the market by 2025.
Given Qatar Airways’ existing all-Boeing cargo fleet, staying loyal to Boeing would make sense. At the 2019 Paris Air Show, Al Baker expressed interest in a 777X freighter and also claimed Qatar Airways’ current cargo fleet would be reaching 10 years old by the time a 777X freighter might enter service, making perfect timing.
Al Baker said,
“Hopefully, Boeing will launch a 777X-based freighter. I hope that Boeing will do what the customer wants, so it will have more efficient freighters. We would also like to be the launch customer, because of the confidence we have in Boeing.”
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The Airbus A350F is a strong option
Despite its confidence in Boeing, Qatar Airways is by no means dismissing other options. Like Boeing, Airbus has yet to formally announce plans for a new freighter plane but is strongly rumored to be working on an A350 cargo variant. The proposed A350-950F would be sized between the -900 and -1000 A350 variants but will allegedly draw heavily from the design of the -1000 in particular.
Should the A350F materialize, it is projected to hit the market around 2025, around the same time as a potential 777X freighter. During Simple Flying’s webinar with Al Baker last month, the CEO expressed strong interest in the A350F.
Al Baker said,
“Definitely, we will be at the front of the queue. We will be soon replacing our current fleet of freighters, and we would want to replace it with the best freighter that is available. We would be very happy to be the launch customer of the new variant.”
Qatar Airways’ current cargo fleet
Qatar Airways is presently working with a freighter fleet of 24 Boeing 777-200Fs and two Boeing 747-8Fs. Additionally, the airline has another two 777-200Fs that it is awaiting delivery. Given the airline’s faith in Boeing, which has helped it rise to become the world’s largest cargo operator, there are many factors in favor of choosing the 777X freighter should it be announced.
However, an A350F would likely come at a cheaper price than the 777X and be cheaper to operate in terms of fuel efficiency. CEO Al Baker has emphasized investing in newer, efficient planes for sustainability, which would favor going with Airbus in this case. However, the airline is currently embroiled in a dispute with Airbus, which may play a part in any decision.
So will Qatar Airways go with Airbus or Boeing for its freighter renewal program? We simply don’t know, but the odds are slightly in favor of Boeing at this point. Even Al Baker is in two minds, with attractive possibilities offered from both sides.
Al Baker said this week,
“We would be very keen to place an order with Boeing or with Airbus. It all depends on how things proceed.”
What do you think Qatar Airways will do? Will it be Airbus or Boeing? Let us know your insights in the comments.