Qatar Airways US$15bn order adds spark to Airbus/Boeing war

QATAR Airways created a sensation on the opening day of last week’s Paris Air Show by announcing orders worth US$15.2 billion for Airbus and Boeing aircraft. The move looks set to further fuel the battle between the European and US giants.

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By  Rhys Jones Published  June 19, 2005

QATAR Airways created a sensation on the opening day of last week’s Paris Air Show by announcing orders worth US$15.2 billion for Airbus and Boeing aircraft. The move looks set to further fuel the battle between the European and US giants. The chief executive of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker revealed his intention to order 60 Airbus A350s, at a price of $US10.6 billion, and at least 20 Boeing 777s for $US4.6 billion. The 60 A350s, deliverable between mid-2010 and 2015, will eventually replace the airline’s fleet of A330s. It was a “hard choice” between the 787 and A350, according to Al Baker. “In the end, the existence of the Airbus A330 in Qatar Airways’ current fleet and slightly more advantageous commercial terms, led us to believe that the A350 would be the optimum choice,” he added. The A350, a planned long-haul, medium-capacity, 250-seat plane, is aimed at competing with Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner, the US company’s latest weapon in its bid to regain its domination of commercial aviation. Launched in December, the A350 has so far attracted just 10 orders from Spanish carrier Air Europa and 20 potential orders from the future company created by the merger of US Airways and America West. The proposed aircraft, whose industrial launch was recently postponed to September, trails far behind the success of the 787, which has already won 266 orders. The Qatar deal was good news for the A350, which had not received enough orders to move forward and was facing questions about possibly losing its government support. However, Airbus CEO Noel Forgeard left little doubt that he thought the A350 would be built, even if all government subsidies for it were stopped. “In any event, we have the money,” he said. “That’s not to say we would spit on any support,” he added. By placing such a large Airbus order, Qatar rejected Boeing’s 787, even though the airline was among those that had put down refundable deposits with Boeing to save 787 delivery positions in case it decided to order the plane. Nevertheless, the order represents a significant endorsement of Boeing’s 777 from an airline that operates only Airbus jets and has many more in the pipeline. The order for Boeing covers three versions of the B777 — the 777-300 ER, representing at least half their order, the 777-200 F cargo plane, and the 777-200 LR, the US company’s latest airliner. These aircraft will be delivered between 2007 and 2010. Despite the fanfare, Qatar Airways made it clear that its orders were not yet firm commitments. “Negotiations are under way with both Airbus and Boeing, but subject to the resolution of certain important outstanding issues with each manufacturer, Qatar Airways will shortly commit to the purchase of a large fleet of Airbus A350 and Boeing 777 aircraft,” said Al Baker.

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