Qatar Airways open to rivals to Airbus and Boeing

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The chief executive of Qatar Airways said delays to new planes from Airbus and Boeing meant he was open to studying future aircraft being developed by emerging producers such as China.

Akbar Al Baker, who has regularly berated the world’s largest planemakers for missing targets, said on Monday delays of up to three years had stifled the growth plans of Middle East carriers who now make up a large slice of Western jet demand.

Qatar Airways has ordered the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the Airbus A380 superjumbo and future A350, all of which have slipped behind original schedules, Reuters reports.

It also has also ordered the industry’s smaller and most popular 150-seat jets, including 50 revamped A320neo airliners from Airbus acquired at the Dubai air show in November.

While the re-engined model and a similar makeover version of Boeing’s 737 are being developed partly to fend off competition from Canada, China and Russia, industry officials say it will be at least a decade before China can compete on larger, widebody planes.

Asked whether he would consider buying Chinese aircraft, Al Baker said, “Why not? If it is safe, efficient and state of the art and meets requirements, then there is nothing wrong. Europe and the United States are using everything that is made in the East, so why should not we do so if it meets our requirements?”

Qatar Airways, which markets itself as a prestigious carrier with an emphasis on luxury, joins low-frills Irish airline Ryanair in pledging to look at a 150-seat aircraft being developed by Chinese group Comac.

Al Baker, speaking while sharing a platform at an aerospace conference with senior officials from Boeing and EADS, the parent of European planemaker Airbus, agreed with a questioner who suggested an interest in China would increase Qatar’s leverage with its traditional suppliers.
“Both my colleagues here (Airbus and Boeing) have programmes that are slipping,” Akbar Al Baker said.
“Aircraft delivery will stifle the growth opportunities we have, especially the Middle East carriers, which are bold enough to take the opportunity at this very difficult time in global economy to continue growing,” he said.

Middle East carrier, led by Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways have been expanding rapidly as they attempt to transform the region into the new hub for aviation.

The Dubai Air Show last November saw orders worth $64 billion, mostly from Emirates and Qatar Airways.

Qatar Airways, the world’s 15th largest airline by international passenger traffic according to 2010 data from IATA, plans to at least double in size by 2020.
“I have plans and have to give the correct return on investments to the owners. So issues of supply chain problems with manufacturers affects us one way or other … and keeping in mind they have such issues, they should not give us promises they cannot deliver.”

Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh defended the aerospace industry’s record as it takes a massive leap in technology to build new lightweight carbon-composite jets like the 787 and A350.

The supply chain, widely blamed in part for a series of delays in the 7887 Dreamliner, remains fragile, Albaugh said.
“Relative to being up to the task, clearly as we push technology we find issues. Yes, some of these programmes are taking longer than we hoped. But I think the result is precisely what the airlines need.”