Qatar to Deploy First Three Superjumbos on European Trunk Routes

Qatar Airways Ltd. plans to use its first three Airbus Group NV A380 superjumbos on European routes where the four-engine doubledeckers can deliver a major capacity boost at minimum fuel burn.

The second and third A380s will most likely be deployed on European services, Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said today, after revealing yesterday that the first would serve London Heathrow. He didn’t identify the probable destinations.

Qatar Airways, which will receive all three aircraft in June as part of an order for 10 of the type, regards the A380 as best suited to medium-haul routes, with U.S. and East Asian cities more of a stretch following a doubling in the price of jet fuel since the model was first offered for sale in 2000.

“The A380 is a very expensive airplane to operate on ultra-longhaul,” Al Baker said. “Unless you get the yield, you won’t make the profit.” The superjumbo would also be ill-suited to relatively short flights to the Indian subcontinent, again because of the yields or fares available, he said.

Al Baker said oil has gone from about $50 a barrel when he first ordered A380s to about $120. If the price fell below $80 Qatar would consider markets such as the U.S., where it is using smaller wide-body aircraft to expanding flights to destinations including Philadelphia, Miami and Dallas.

Oneworld alliance partner British Airways has been happy with occupancy levels on its A380s since taking them last year, Al Baker said, adding that yields tend to be higher across the North Atlantic because of the generally stronger demand.

Qatar Air could get its first Airbus A350 wide-body as early as October or November, given that nothing worrisome has emerged since flight tests began last June, Al Baker said. The carrier is due to get the first of the 300-seat, long-range twin-jets to enter service before the year’s end.

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