The Qatar CEO condemned Boeing for delaying the 787 Dreamliner development. He also criticised Air France for not cooperating to resolve the tussle between Gulf and European airlines. Resolution of the issue can result in more cheap flights in the Gulf.

The Qatar CEO, Mr Akbar Al Baker came down heavily upon Boeing for failing to develop the 787 Dreamliner, reported media sources. Commenting on the issue, the Qatar boss addressed a news conference in the words ‘I was really taken aback by the (787) programme. I never expected a programme could be delayed so much with a company like Boeing, which has pride in its quality. They have very clearly failed’.Al Baker expressed great discontent over the way plane projects are being handled at Boeing and Bombardier and even warned that Qatar could very well consider Airbus for extra business. The development of the carbon-composite 787 has already fallen three years behind schedule and according to analysts further delays are likely as Boeing will need time to address a fire incident, which took place on a test flight. This resulted in the grounding of test flights. Bombardier is also facing its own set of issues with its C-Series jet. Regarding Airbus, Al Baker said that delaying the 350 seater variant of the futuristic A350 was not an option for Airbus as this would give Boeing the breather it needs to retaliate.

Boeing’s Reaction

Boeing refused to react to Al Baker’s comments but mentioned that it had found out the cause of the fire and was in the process of carrying out necessary rectifications to the plane. Boeing also expects to have a clearer picture of the 787 deliveries in the upcoming weeks. The first 787 was meant to be delivered in 2008 for launching customer All Nippon Airways.

Qatar might move more business to Airbus

Al Baker also voiced plans to place higher orders for the A380 super jumbo planes and was quoted as saying ‘Today we have only five A380s on order and most definitely we will consider increasing this order’. Qatar is also pondering over the issue of ordering a re-engined version of the A320 single-aisle jetliner. Over a span of 13 years, Qatar has already expanded its fleet to 94 from a mere 4. In addition, the airliner has placed orders for 200 more planes from Airbus and Boeing to the tune of approximately $40 billion. These 200 planes include 30 Dreamliners.

So far, Qatar has not decided upon the engines for the 500 seater A380. However, Baker did reveal that the Rolls-Royce engine blow out aboard a Qantas A380 flight recently will not influence Qatar’s decision in terms of choosing an engine. Al Baker stated that Qatar was deliberating over the issue of ordering an upgrade of Airbus A320 jet. This plane has a seating capacity of 150 and is the nucleus of numerous medium haul fleets. Al Baker expects it to be rolled out by the end of the year. The A320 with new engines has been given the name NEO. It is meant to give competition to Bombardier, which is attempting to grab market share from Airbus and Boeing. Earlier, Qatar had pulled out of a deal to buy the Bombardier C-Series.

Qatar’s Concerns

Qatar is shying away from Bombardier because of concerns relating to the engines of the plane, which are manufactured by Pratt & Whitney. Al Baker remarked, ‘If they (Bombardier) do not roll up their sleeves pretty fast then the NEO will eclipse them and people will be interested because they have the infrastructure in place’. However, Bombardier clarified that it was pretty satisfied with the engine progress of its 110-145 seat C-Series.

Airline Turmoil in the Gulf

Qatar, as well as other airlines based in the Gulf are looking forward to the quick delivery of new planes to fulfil their plans of making the Gulf a significant airline hub. Besides, extensive airlines’ fleets will also boost the inventory of seats to various destinations and therefore higher availability of cheap flights. However, this has led to major conflicts with airlines based in Europe over concerns regarding the fate of traditional carriers. Different airlines from the US and the EU have pointed fingers at credit rules. These rules permit the grant of export loans to airlines from Asia and Gulf when they plan to buy Airbus or Boeing aircrafts. However, the same rules prohibit the granting of export loans to airlines based in the countries, where these planes are manufactured.

Media reports reported Al Baker to reveal that he had sent out invitations to the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Air France – KLM for a dinner in Paris but did not receive any response. He expressed offence in the words, ‘The hand of friendship extended to Air France has not been reciprocated and this is not conducive to relations between our countries’. To this, Air France said, it did not comment upon diary matters.

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