Airbus A320Neo Said Set to Debut With Lufthansa After Qatar Spatby and
Gulf airline awaits fix to Pratt & Whitney engine, people say
German No. 1 to get its first revamped narrow-body on Dec. 22
Airbus Group SE’s A320neo will have its first delivery to Deutsche Lufthansa AG after Qatar Airways Ltd., long earmarked as the initial customer, balked at taking receipt of the revamped narrow-body model because of engine issues, people familiar with the situation said.
The Gulf carrier is reluctant to accept the plane until the glitches with its Pratt & Whitney geared-turbofan powerplants are resolved, according to the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.
Lufthansa is willing to take delivery of its first A320neo on Dec. 22, spokesman Helmut Tolksdorf said Thursday, without specifying whether the date has been brought forward. The German carrier said in March that deliveries would begin before the end of 2015, having initially been scheduled for early 2016.
Qatar Air Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al-Baker said Wednesday that his airline still expected to take the Neo this year, without mentioning any holdup. Gudrun Gorner, the carrier’s regional spokeswoman, said she couldn’t immediately comment, while Airbus spokeswoman Marcella Cortellazzi said the company is in talks about deliveries that remain set to start this year.
Al Baker has delayed high-profile handovers before, pushing back delivery of the first ever Airbus A350 by more than a week last December to address customization issues not related to the manufacturer, and deferring acceptance of Qatar Air’s initial A380 superjumbos in 2014 while concerns about the standard of cabin work were addressed.
Lufthansa didn’t say if it will become the first carrier to deploy the Neo on scheduled flights. The carrier has 116 A320 or A321 variants of the model on order for delivery between 2015 and 2025, and is also due to be the world’s first operator of the Bombardier Inc.’s C Series jet next year via its Swiss unit.
Qatar Air’s decision to delay taking the A320neo relates to a pending software update and changes to the bearing of an engine shaft, Aviation Week reported earlier. United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt, which competes with a General Electric Co. venture to power the plane, said it and Airbus are working “very closely” with the Doha-based carrier, adding that the upgraded model and its turbines are “certified and are ready for delivery to customers this year.”
Airbus said in September that a PW1100G engine suffered damage in hot-weather in-flight testing. Trials with the turbine on the Neo were also suspended from May through August as Pratt dealt with difficulties involving a seal in the area of the high-pressure compressor.