Qatar Air Cancels Four Airbus A350s Following Supplier DelaysBenjamin Katz and Deena Kamel Yousef
Gulf carrier refuses deliveries amid cabin-quality concerns
Cancellations come amid airspace ban, dip in Mideast demand
The move was reflected in Airbus’s June order tally published Thursday and confirmed by a spokesman for the Toulouse, France-based company. Qatar Air is the biggest buyer of the A350, with 80 orders before the cancellations, as well as the launch customer having taken its first plane in December 2014.
Delivery issues stem from the manufacturer, Akbar Al Baker, Qatar’s chief executive officer, said in response to questions after Bloomberg reported the cancellation plan earlier. The airline’s A350 contract includes a clause allowing it to scrap handovers that are delayed beyond a certain point, Airbus said, adding that the planes will be reallocated to other customers.
Qatar Air, ranked No. 1 worldwide by ratings service Skytrax, has a history of declining aircraft that fail to meet its exacting standards, with Al Baker having previously turned down deliveries of A380, A320neo and earlier A350 planes. At the same time, the carrier is grappling with a dip in demand for Mideast travel together with curbs on flights due to airspace bans imposed by Arab neighbors over Qatar’s links to Iran.
Canceled orders won’t immediately impact growth plans, with Qatar Air having agreed in March to lease four A350s from Latam Airlines Group SA, in which it owns a 10 percent stake, for four to six months. The South American company doesn’t immediately need the jets because of a dip in demand in the region.
Qatar Air has 19 A350-900s in its fleet, including the Latam planes, together with orders for 28 more of the baseline variant plus 37 larger A350-1000s, of which deliveries are due to commence before the end of the year.
The Gulf airline is separately operating nine of its narrow-body A320 jets for the British Airways arm of IAG SA, in which it has a 20 percent stake, during a strike by cabin crew at the U.K. operator’s London Heathrow hub.
Airbus said it delivered 64 aircraft including eight A350s and booked a total of 138 orders in June. With cancellations the company now has a backlog across its aircraft programs of 6,771 planes amounting to about nine years of production at current rates.