Qatar Readies More Orders as Al Baker Studies Boeing’s 777X

Qatar Airways Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said he plans to announce aircraft purchases at the Dubai Air Show next month while awaiting more information on the Boeing Co. 777X before committing to the jet.

Qatar Air intends to announce further contracts at the Dubai expo, which starts Nov. 17, Al Baker said today at Hamad International Airport in Doha. He declined to reveal the potential size of planned orders, or the aircraft involved.

The Middle East’s third-biggest carrier is the initial customer for Airbus SAS’s A350 wide-body model, which made its first test flight this year and is set for commercial service entry at the end of 2014. The jet competes both with Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and the larger 777, of which the manufacturer is preparing an upgrade that it will likely announce in Dubai.

“We cannot just start declaring that we’re interested in an airplane which is really not properly defined,” Al Baker said of the 777X, as the follow-up version of the popular wide-body is known. “Once defined, once we receive a proposal, then we will see what fits our requirements. Does the A350 or 777X fit for our future growth and future replacement program?”

787 Reliability

Qatar Airways has 52 Dreamliners on order in total and already operates the all-composite aircraft. While the model was grounded with battery glitches earlier this year and has suffered a number of other technical setbacks, the Gulf carrier has achieved the highest dispatch reliability -- a measure of on-time departures -- for the 787 fleet, Al Baker said.

Qatar Air, which has 250 aircraft on order, including A350s due from the second half of next year, has no plans to issue sukuk or bonds to finance deliveries for the time being, Al Baker said, with the fleet expansion to be paid for with the carrier’s own funds or through capital markets when required.

The CEO said he would assess any stretch model of the A350 model beyond the -1000 he is already buying, but has no interest in the 787-10X, which is too close in size to the A350-900, a variant that the carrier is also purchasing.

The carrier also has no interest in additional Airbus A380 double-deckers, of which it will receive the first example early next year, he said.

Qatar Airways expects to move its entire operations to the delayed Hamad International Airport soon, Al Baker said. The $15.5 billion hub will have capacity for 50 million passengers annually in three years, he said.

The delayed airport will open early next year, according to the executive. The facility is one-third the size of all of Doha, Qatar’s capital city. There remains some final work on lounges before the airport is set to open, Al Baker said.

Asked whether he’ll continue at the helm of state-owned Qatar Airways, Al Baker said he plans to remain in the job for as long as the government wants him.

“The decision for me to stay or leave is dependent on my ruler,” he told reporters.

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