Qatar Airways is in talks with Boeing and Airbus to delay delivery of any new aircraft. CEO Akbar al-Baker has said today that new airplanes will likely be “deferred for several years.” This comes as the airline is working to right-size its fleet for the future amid a travel downturn al-Baker predicts to last many years.
Qatar in negotiations with the manufacturers
It’s been a week of news for Qatar Airways. While the CEO, Akbar al-Baker, is clear that he’s not expecting a recovery of the airline industry for several years, he has also noted that Qatar’s fleet will be downsized by around 25%. Among those aircraft likely to be exiting the fleet are Qatar’s 10 Airbus A380s.
As well as not bringing back the A380 and potentially returning some aircraft to lessors, he has now stated that it could be “several years” before any new aircraft are delivered to the airline. As reported in the South China Morning Post today, the CEO has said that he is in talks to delay delivery of the more than 200 aircraft it has on order, saying,
“Well we are in negotiation with them, so I don’t want to talk about this, but yes it will be deferred for several years.”
2020 was supposed to be Qatar Airways’ biggest year for aircraft deliveries. At one point, it was hoping to receive around 40 aircraft this year, but the COVID-19 crisis has put pay to that.
Which aircraft will be delayed?
It sounds like Qatar Airways is keen to delay all aircraft deliveries until the crisis has passed. Whether the manufacturers will allow this remains to be seen, but it could affect a number of product lines, including the new 777X.
In total, Qatar has more than 200 aircraft on order, spread between both Boeing and Airbus. On the narrowbody front, it has orders and letters of intent placed for 50 A321neo family jets. Some of these were set to be the first to showcase a lie-flat business class product. Also from Airbus, the airline has orders in for 27 new A350-1000s, which it could look to push back.
On the Boeing side, the airline was expecting deliveries of more than 80 jets in the coming years. Among these were the airline’s 30 787-9 Dreamliners, arriving complete with the new and improved Qsuite. Seven had already arrived (after some back and forth) but will remain idle for the time being.
Aside of the 787s, Qatar was looking to Boeing for its future long-haul needs with the 777X. The airline had placed orders for 50 of the larger 777-9, with options for 50 more, and 10 of the smaller 777-8. It had previously mooted swapping the -8s for -9s, but had remained committed to being one of the first customers for Boeing’s long haul giant.
There is also a letter of intent floating about relating to an order of up to 60 Boeing 737 MAX, reports Executive Traveler, so it’s likely that may not translate into a firm commitment, at least not for the time being.
Willing to help Cathay
Despite al-Bakers dismal outlook for the aviation industry and his efforts to right-size Qatar’s fleet, he remains committed to his investment in struggling Cathay Pacific. As the third-largest shareholder in Hong Kong’s beleaguered flag carrier, al-Baker has said that he would be willing to assist the airline financially. He told the South China Morning Post,
“Cathay is a well-established company and as a shareholder, if Cathay Pacific were to approach us for an equity injection, we will definitely support them.”
For Qatar Airways, however, al-Baker sees the immediate future being incredibly reliant on cargo. Right now, it is operating around 110 daily cargo flights using a mix of its 26 dedicated freighter aircraft and some of its empty passenger planes.
Which aircraft do you think Qatar should defer? Should any of its orders be cancelled? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.