Qatar Airways has taken receipt of the first of its long-awaited A380 aircraft in Hamburg, and the super-jumbo is expected to make its first official flight in full livery to Doha tomorrow.
The national carrier’s inaugural commercial flight to London Heathrow will take place on Oct. 10, four months later than initially planned.
Business Traveller reports airline CEO Akbar Al Baker saying that the Doha to Paris route would also start later in October.
However, over the weekend, flight tracker Airline Route reported that Qatar Airways pushed back its the first A380 service bookings for Doha to Paris for another two weeks – from Oct. 16 to Nov. 1.
Meanwhile, Al Baker seemed keen yesterday to smooth over earlier disputes with Airbus, saying the plane maker was not to blame for the delays to the delivery of the aircraft.
Backtracking on previous remarks made in July, he added that that the postponement was due to Qatar Airways’ commitment to quality.
Qatar Airways had 10 firm orders and three options for the A380s. It initially planned to receive three of its order of 13 A380 super-jumbos in June, but the delivery dates have been repeatedly pushed back.
This was due to issues related to the cabin, including paint in some areas having a bubbled texture, joint lines on wallpaper and some gaps in non-textile floor coverings believed to be in the galley.
There were also problems with leaky seals on the aircraft’s doors, which created excessive cabin noise.
Reuters reported Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier as confirming yesterday that the first three Qatar Airways A380s had undergone an interim fix for the leaky seals, but a permanent design change would only be implemented starting with the airline’s fourth aircraft, which is due to be delivered later this year.
Airbus has designed a new plate for the door frames and will install them once it has received safety approval.
At the Farnborough airshow in the UK in July, Al Baker put pressure on Airbus to resolve the problems, saying he refused to place any new orders with the company until the issue was dealt with.
At yesterday’s Hamburg handover ceremony, Al Baker reportedly said that he would decide soon on whether to confirm the options, and hinted that further orders could be placed with Airbus.
“Once delivered, we will see its performance and, if it exceeds our expectations, we will firm up the three airplanes and maybe take some more,” he is quoted by industry source Flight Global as saying.
Once operational, the A380s will have 517 seats – 461 in economy, 48 in business class and just eight in first class.
In an apparent response to Gulf rival Etihad, which earlier this year revealed it would have super-luxe personal suites on its A380s, Al Baker reportedly apologized for not offering “residences, butlers or suites,” saying that instead, Qatar’s interiors had “class.”
The national carrier’s first and business class cabins – and a special lounge area for premium passengers at the rear of business class – are located on the aircraft’s upper deck, with economy seating being split between both floors of the aircraft.
Meanwhile, delivery of the smaller A350 planes appears to be on schedule, with Qatar Airways due to take receipt of the first of the aircraft before the end of the year.
Last month, the airline issued the first photos of the newly-liveried planes, to great anticipation from aviation experts and enthusiasts.
With Qatar Airways’ ongoing expansion of its fleet, Hamad International Airport reported an increase in footfall of more than 11 percent this July, compared to the same period at Doha International Airport last year.
A total of 2,160,843 passengers arrived, departed or transited through the new airport.
Are you excited to fly on the A380? Thoughts?