Qatar Air Halts A380 Handovers Until Airbus Fixes Wing Issue

Qatar Airways Ltd. said it will put delivery of its Airbus SAS A380 superjumbos on hold unless the planemaker resolves issues with cracks in the model’s wings.

The second-largest Middle Eastern carrier had been due to take the first of 10 A380s on firm order in October next year, Chief Executive Officer Akbar al Baker said today in Dubai.

“We hope they will find a solution so we still get our aircraft on time,” Al Baker said during a roundtable discussion at the Arabian Travel Market 2012 conference.

Airbus, which couldn’t be reached prior to the May Day public holiday, identified a manufacturing fault after cracks were found in the wings of some A380s late last year and is now working to fix planes already in operation while also modifying production processes to eliminate the problem in new ones.

The cost of repairing aircraft in service will be about 105 million euros ($139 million), Airbus parent European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. said in March. It hasn’t given an estimate for the price of changing manufacturing processes and materials.

“We expect decisions about the necessary production changes and the repair-fix very soon,” Airbus spokesman Rainer Ohler said today by telephone. “We’ll implement them as soon as possible and schedule the fix in line with airline operational planning. That will put an end to the whole story.”

Bombardier, Boeing

Qatar Airways is on course to announce a $700 million order for 10 Bombardier Inc. aircraft at next month’s EBACE corporate aviation show in Geneva, Al Baker said. The planes are required for the Gulf carrier’s business-jet unit, he said.

Boeing Co.’s plans for the new generation 777-8 and 777-9 wide-body models are of interest to Qatar Air, Al Baker said, adding that the carrier would also be “very keen” to pursue new aircraft from Chinese and Russian manufacturers.

The CEO said he’s open to the possibility of Qatar Air joining a global airline alliance should it be asked.

“Co-operating with airlines and feeding traffic into each other’s networks is always beneficial,” he said. “We haven’t been invited by anybody and if we are invited, yes, we would consider it in a positive way.”

Al Baker also predicted that Qatar Air and Dubai-based Emirates will emerge as the two “dominant” operators in the region, adding that Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, while fast-expanding, won’t fall into that category.

Bahrain-based Gulf Air is “shrinking” but should ultimately survive, even after political interference that means the carrier is “not what they should have been,” he said.

Qatar Airways was profitable in the year ended March 31, Al Baker said, though the earnings figure, which has yet to be released, “will be much less than last year,” he said.

Qatar posted earnings of $215 million in fiscal 2011, the CEO said, on airline sales of about $6.4 billion. The comparable revenue figure last year was about $7.5 billion, he said.

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