Qatar Air CEO Prefers Boeing 777-9X as Airbus Trumps Smaller Jet

Qatar Airways Ltd. may become a launch customer for the Boeing Co. 777-9X while eschewing a smaller version in favor of a plane from Airbus SAS.

“I am more interested in the -9 for one very simply reason and that is that it will perform better than what they say,” Akbar Al Baker, chief executive officer of the Doha-based carrier said. Boeing still needs to provide more information before Qatar will sign on, he said.

Airbus and Boeing are battling for widebody supremacy at the 50th Paris Air Show, with Qatar Air disclosing two firm orders for Boeing 777-300ERs and options for seven more to assure growth until new planes are ready. The airline, the lead customer for the Airbus A350, said it will use the largest version, the -1000, rather than opting for the new Boeing 777-8X which is the closest competitors.

“There could be airlines like Emirates that have a need for the 777-8X because they have ultra, ultra-long flights,” Al Baker said. “But with my network requirement I don’t think I need the -8.”

Al Baker said he’s also not interested in the Boeing 787-10X as other planes he’s committed to buy fill that need. Nevertheless, the airline is in talks with Boeing to exercise options for 30 more smaller 787 Dreamliners beyond 30 ordered contingent on timing, he said.

“We have already asked Boeing to give us slots,” he said. “If they give us slots in the next decade we will not be interested because by then there are other products that are available.”

The carrier may also buy additional Airbus A330 passenger planes, beyond 26 ordered, at an appropriate price. “With the introduction of the A350 the airplane becomes a little bit vintage,” he said.

Qatar may also buy or lease freighters and abandon a plan to convert A330 passenger models to cargo carriers unless the European Aeronautics, Defence & Space Co. unit due to perform the work lowers its price, Al Baker said.

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