Boeing 787 Delay Creates Qatar Airways Opening for Airbus

Boeing Co.’s halt in delivering the 787 Dreamliner this year because of battery failures has created an opening for Airbus SAS to sell about $3.5 billion of A330 wide-body jets to Qatar Airways Ltd.

The airline, which has five 787s, may order as many as 15 A330s as it waits for Boeing to hand over more Dreamliners, Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker told reporters today at a conference in Dubai. The A330 has added sales amid the 787’s delays even though it lacks the Boeing plane’s range.

Airbus will have to “sharpen their pencils” to clinch an order for more A330s, Al Baker said, signaling that he’s seeking a bargain from the Toulouse, France-based planemaker. The A330-300 has a list price of $231.1 million, on which airlines typically get a discount.

Al Baker’s willingness to consider A330s as a placeholder until more Dreamliners arrive shows the fallout from the 787’s initial 3 1/2 years of delivery delays and then a three-month grounding to fix overheating batteries. Qatar Airways remains supportive of the 787 and is considering a move to firm up 30 options in addition to the 30 ordered so far, Al Baker said.

“We will not cancel the Dreamliners, quite the contrary,” he said. “We may order additional Dreamliners because we have purchase rights for another 30.”

Qatar may also order more A380 superjumbo planes, he said. The four-engine A380 has a catalog price of $389.9 million, and with 262 orders it has outsold Boeing’s 747-8 jumbo jet. The latest version of the 747 has amassed only 105 orders among both the passenger and freighter variants, and Boeing said last month that it’s paring monthly output to 1.75 planes from 2.

Global Grounding

The global 787 fleet was parked by regulators on Jan. 16 after lithium-ion batteries failed on two planes. The Federal Aviation Administration cleared the aircraft to fly on April 19 after Boeing made changes including more power-cell insulation, a steel enclosure and a tube to vent vapors outside the plane.

Al Baker said any additional Dreamliner purchases would be the 787-9 version, which is set to start deliveries in 2014 and has a list price of $243.6 million. Qatar currently flies the smaller 787-8s. Boeing plans to double 787 production to 10 a month by the end of this year to shrink a backlog of 840 planes.

Boeing rose 0.5 percent to $94.19 at the close in New York. Airbus parent European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. fell 0.3 percent to 40.73 euros in Paris.

Airbus has increased its monthly production rate of A330s to 10 from nine. Chief Executive Officer Fabrice Bregier in January said the planemaker would eventually consider pushing output to 11.

The planemaker announced plans in November to increase the range of its A330-300 by activating a center wing tank that will accommodate more fuel, adding 500 nautical miles (926 kilometers) of range. The A330-200 added 350 nautical miles. Both versions are scheduled to start flying in 2015.

Airbus says the reconfigured A330-300 will have a maximum range of 6,050 nautical miles. Boeing says the 787-9 will have a range of as much as 8,500 nautical miles.

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