Today’s meeting of the Aviation Club UK featured a keynote speech by Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker. Not one to mince his words, Al Baker let loose on a number of key topics, not least his concerns about the Airbus A350. Amongst other things, the CEO confirmed his lack of interest in an A350 freighter, indicating he’d look to Boeing for his future freighter needs.
No A350F for Qatar Airways
Qatar Airways has made no secret of the fact it is looking for a new generation freighter solution. As long ago as June, the airline had stated that it was looking to order around 30 cargo aircraft for its fleet renewal program. With both Boeing and Airbus anticipated to launch new generation freighters, the jury was out on which way Qatar would jump.
Qatar’s present freight capacity is provided mainly by Boeing aircraft. It flies 25 777-200Fs and a pair of 747-8Fs, but has phased out all its remaining A330-200Fs. But it operates the A350 as a passenger plane, and had, until recently, been very happy with its performance.
Airbus launched the A350F during its Q2 earnings call, and acquired its first customer during the recent Dubai Air Show. In the past, Qatar’s CEO told Simple Flying that he would be at the front of the queue for an A350 freighter, and yet, no order has been forthcoming.
Speaking today at a meeting of the UK Aviation Club, Qatar’s CEO Akbar Al Baker shed some light on his opinion of the A350F. the ongoing issues with the paint degradation on the A350 passenger jets have caused what he calls a “very large dent” in the airline’s widebody operations. It came to light earlier this week that the paint problems are being experienced by more airlines than originally thought.
Al Baker has previously noted he is only ‘reluctantly’ bringing back the A380 because of capacity issues caused by the loss of his A350s. At present, 20 of its 53 aircraft are grounded, and Al Baker says he is now turning to the leasing market to make up the shortfall. Clearly, he is not impressed, and when asked if this issue has closed the door on any order for the A350F, he answered simply,
Big order for the 777X afoot
With the A350 out of the picture, it seems the chief is keenly eyeing the 777X as an alternative for his future freight needs. Following the Dubai Air Show, the 777X stopped off in Doha for its future customer to take a look; clearly Al Baker was impressed.
But Boeing is yet to firmly announce any plans for a 777XF, although it is widely believed that it is just a matter of time. Indeed, the 777XF could well be the next aircraft to come out of the new production line, even ahead of the 777-8.
– Does this close the door to ordering the A350F? "Yes"
– Also hints at a "very large" order for the 777X freighter, that will be "nearly" 50 aircraft and may happen before Christmas.
— Jonathan Robins (@jrobinsuk) November 30, 2021
Putting the issue into perspective, Al Baker noted that Airbus is working on a solution for the A350 paint problem, but that they ‘don’t have a solution because they don’t know why it is happening’. He further said that Boeing’s problems with the 787 were ‘dwarfed’ by what’s going on at Airbus with the A350.
— Max Kingsley-Jones (@MaxK_J) November 30, 2021
With Boeing yet to confirm the 777XF, Qatar is playing the waiting game. However, he appears confident that it won’t be too long in coming, saying that he is poised to make a large order for almost 50 aircraft which could take place before Christmas. That would make for a superb Christmas present for the US planemaker for sure.