• Gulf carrier wants to maintain low average age of its jets
  • Relations with Airbus at low ebb over A320Neo, A350 glitches

Qatar Airways said it’s poised to make a major jetliner purchase, adding to a backlog of more than 340 outstanding orders for Boeing Co. and Airbus Group SE planes.

The Gulf carrier will place a “large” aircraft order “soon,” Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said Wednesday at a briefing in Doha, without elaborating on the number or class of jets required.

“Qatar Airways has a continuous plan of fleet expansion and fleet replacement in order to keep the average age of our fleet very young,” Al Baker said.

Qatar Air’s order book includes 80 Airbus A320neos -- a deal that may be at risk after Al Baker declined to take delivery of the first planes because of engine cooling issues, saying that he was exploring the option of switching to Boeing’s 737 Max. The Mideast airline has also said it may help to renew the fleet of Italy’s Meridiana Fly SpA after agreeing to buy a 49 percent stake.

Al Baker’s latest order plan bucks a recent trend in the industry, with airlines in many parts of the world reining in expansion planes as demand lags behind projections and leads to over-capacity and a decline in fares. The Gulf hasn’t been immune, with lower crude prices curbing oil industry-related travel.

A350 Crunch

To date, Qatar Airways has scrapped orders for three A320neos that came without a fix that turbine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney has been working on, the CEO said. He didn’t reveal whether the modifications are sufficiently effective for the rest of the deal to go ahead as planned.

Airbus is also struggling to keep up with deliveries of the A350 amid production issues at suppliers of interior fittings for the long-haul plane. Qatar Air, the jet’s first customer, is now five aircraft short of the number that should have been received, Al Baker said.

“Our relationship is very strained,” he said. “What’s happening at Airbus with the deliveries is seriously affecting our growth.” With the A350 shortfall having a “huge” impact on Qatar Air’s expansion plans and finances, the planemaker needs to catch up on deliveries this fiscal year, he added.

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