Boeing Bounces Back at Show as Qatar Doubles 777-9X Order

Boeing Co., which lagged behind Airbus Group NV’s order haul on the first two days of the Farnborough Air Show, bounced back with a commitment from Qatar Airways Ltd. to double planned purchases of the 777-9X model.

Qatar Airways said it wants to buy an additional 50 of the largest twin-engine model, after firming up a deal for the same number announced at the Dubai expo in November. The value of the follow-up commitment, which isn’t firm, is $18.9 billion, making it the single biggest deal yet at this year’s show.

Airbus and Boeing are facing off at the air show south of London, with an early advantage to the European manufacturer after it introduced an updated version of its A330 wide-body with more fuel-efficient engines. Both companies have mainly pulled in deals from leasing firms, with Qatar Airways and AirAsia Group Bhd yesterday among the few airline customers.

“This represents the largest aircraft order in our history for a single aircraft type,” Qatar Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al-Baker said in a press conference today. “The 777s we currently have form the backbone of our fleet.”

Boeing, based in Chicago, also pulled in an order from China’s Hainan Airlines Co. for 50 737MAX-8 single-aisle airliners valued at $5.1 billion at list price, as well as two current-version 737-700 from Air Algerie SpA. MG Aviation, a leasing company, agreed to buy two 787-9, the mid-sized version of the Dreamliner model.

No Orders

The 777X will be introduced by the end of the decade to follow the current 777, a long-range wide-body jet that boasts the world’s largest commercial engine. Airbus has positioned its A350-1000 against the 777, though the aircraft has not won any orders or commitments so far at the air show.

“We’re very pleased with the support in the market place for the A350,” Airbus Chief Operating Officer John Leahy said. “My biggest problem with the A350 is the lack of production slots right now, not lack of demand.”

Airbus’s only announcement so far at the show today was for six A350-900s to Air Mauritius Ltd., two of which will be leased from Aercap Holdings Ltd.

Qatar will start firming up options once deliveries begin in 2020, Al-Baker said. The carrier needs the new planes both to replace aging models in its own fleet, as well as for its leasing business Qatar Aviation Lease Co.

“We want to expand that business, because this is also a profit center for the airline,” Al-Baker said of aircraft rental operations. “We could compete with leasing companies,” he said in an interview. “Wherever they require airplanes, we will lease.”

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