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A350 delays dent growth plans, says Qatar Airways

CEO Akbar Al Baker "disappointed" by delivery delays to plane.
Qatar, NEWS, Aviation

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Airbus’ decision to delay the launch of its largest A350 wide-body aircraft by 18 months will “dent” Qatar Airway’s expansion plans, the carrier’s CEO told Arabian Business.

The European planemaker said Sunday it would push back delivery of the A350-1000 aircraft until 2017 to meet buyer demands for a more powerful engine, and put the plane into more direct competition with Boeing Co’s 777-300ER.

In a deal with Rolls-Royce, engine power in the A350 will increase in thrust to 97,000 pounds, marking the company’s biggest commercial engine and the largest yet to power an Airbus.

The added push will allow the 350-seat plane to fly 740km further and tackle longer routes – but has also hit Qatar Airway’s bid to grow its fleet as rapidly as possible.

“We are hearing rumours the aircraft has significant delays. This will dent our expansion and fleet replacement programme,” CEO Akbar Al Baker told reporters at the Paris Air Show.

“It never makes me happy that one of the programmes we are so depend on is being delayed. It is very disappointing to us and we hope the performance that they are talking about is the right information and it will do what Airbus says the airplane is going to do.”

Al Baker has been a vocal critic of delays to rival Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, which has seen its delivery date postponed seven times after problems with materials and engine supply.

In December, the CEO said he would consider cancelling his order for 30 Boeing 787s if their launch date was pushed back again.

Along with Gulf rivals Etihad and Emirates Airway, Qatar Airways is one of the largest buyers of new aircraft, with orders for 80 Airbus A350s, 60 Boeing 787s and five Airbus SAS A380s.

The company on Sunday kicked off the Paris Air Show with an order for six Boeing 777-300ER, valued at $1.7bn at list prices. The carrier already operates 25 777s.

Qatar Airway said in March it would hire 11,500 new staff over the next three years to keep pace with an expansion plan that will see it serve 120 destinations by 2013.

The airline intends to grow its fleet to more than 120 aircraft during the same period.

Qatar, the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, is building a new airport with the capacity to accommodate 50 million passengers per year.

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