The 2015 Paris Air Show opened this week with Qatar Airways announcing a major order for more than a dozen new wide-body jets – and its CEO taking another shot at one of his US competitors.
The state-owned national carrier said in a statement that it had purchased 10 Boeing 777-8Xs and four 777 Freighters, an order valued at US$4.8 billion based on the current list prices for the planes.
The purchase of the 350-seat 777-8X planes are in addition to the order Qatar Airways previously placed for 50 of the slightly larger 400-seat 777-9X model.
The line of long-haul aircraft is currently under development, with the first passenger planes expected to be delivered in 2020.
The order was announced yesterday at the Paris Air Show, a biannual event where military and commercial planes are demonstrated for customers and manufacturers typically publicize major contracts.
‘We are creating even more jobs’
At this year’s event, the ongoing dispute between the three largest US airlines and the major Gulf carriers also took center stage.
For the past several months, American Airlines, Delta and United have stepped up claims that the governments of Qatar and the UAE unfairly subsidize their national carriers, a charge that the Gulf airlines deny.
During a press conference to announce the 777X orders, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker highlighted how his purchase from American manufacturer Boeing was helping the US economy.
“I hope that the gentleman at Delta knows that we are creating even more jobs in the United States by ordering more airplanes,” he said in a reference to Delta CEO Richard Anderson, according to USA Today.
Job creation is one of the reasons a major US travel industry association recently appealed to the US government in support of the Gulf carriers.
Al Baker also for the time disclosed a figure for the airline’s annual revenues, telling the Wall Street Journal that Qatar Airways made a net profit of $103 million during its last financial year.
Additionally, the chief reportedly repeated his threat to pull out of the oneworld alliance over claims that fellow member American Airlines is hindering Qatar Airways’ operations by refusing to give it access to terminal gates at JFK airport in New York.
“We are only committed to oneworld provided the spirit in which we joined oneworld exists … If we find that we cannot have a settlement to this very contentious issue, yes we will exit from oneworld,” Reuters quoted Al Baker as saying.
New Bombardier, A380 planes dismissed
Separately, Qatar Airways ruled out several aircraft from joining its fleet in the near future.
Reuters reported that the Gulf airline was no longer interested in Bombardier’s CSeries narrow-body aircraft, which made their debut at the Paris Air Show. Al Baker said earlier this year that the airline “cannot wait indefinitely” for the Canadian-made plane, which has been beset by delays.
Elsewhere at the air show, Airbus said it was in talks about developing a new “stretch” version of its double-decker A380 with new engines and 50 extra seats.
The company said it is discussing the new model with Emirates – the world’s largest A380 customer, which has been pushing for a redesign – and at least half a dozen customers, the Wall Street Journal said.
However, Qatar Airways does not appear to be on that list – Al Baker told Bloomberg that the carrier, which lists four A380s in its fleet and has another nine on order, was not one of those prospective customers.
Qatar Airways wasn’t the only customer from the Gulf state purchasing planes in Paris.
Boeing said yesterday that the Qatar Armed Forces was doubling the size of its C-17 Globemaster III airlifter fleet with the purchase of four additional planes.
The military aircraft is primarily used to transport troops or heavy cargo, perform airdrop and medical evacuations as well as deliver humanitarian aid, Boeing said.