Qatar Airways in talks with Airbus, despite A350 delays

Plane maker says late arrival of some parts would delay production.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker


Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker will hold talks on Monday with Airbus about possible orders, despite the French manufacturer announcing delays in delivery of the new A350 aircraft.

The French plane maker said at the weekend that it has been forced to push back deliveries of the A350 aircraft by as much as six months as some parts arrived late.

Doha-based Qatar Airways is the biggest customer for the A350, with 80 on order. It was scheduled to be the first airline to get the plane.

However, Airbus confirmed it is still in discussions with Al Baker in a bid to seal further orders.

"We are still talking to Mr Akbar about possible deals," John Leahy, Airbus chief operating officer, told reporters at Dubai Airshow on Monday. Leahy further confirmed that talks were due to be held with Qatar executives later in the day.

Airbus parent European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co (EADS) confirmed at the weekend that assembly of the A350 aircraft will start in the first quarter of next year, rather than late in 2011.

First delivery is set for the first half of 2014 instead of the end of 2013. The delays will lead to a charge of €200m ($271m), EADS said.

Airbus declined to reveal how much compensation Qatar will be paid as a result of the delay.

“Qatar has been informed about the delay… We had constructive discussions... There is a contract that stipulates a lot of things and we will respect the contract,” Habib Fekih, president of Airbus Middle East, told Arabian Business on Sunday on the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow.

The delay is the second push-back on the A350, as the company moves along more cautiously to avoid the mistakes of its A380 double-decker programme that was years behind schedule.

Airbus is struggling to manage hundreds of suppliers and new composite technologies that also stymied Boeing’s development of its 787 Dreamliner, which entered commercial service last month, more than three years later than planned.

“We’ve not yet flown the aircraft,” EADS chief financial officer Hans Peter Ring told reporters. “We have a lot of years to go before ramp up so this is what we know today.”

Ring announced the delay as EADS reported net income advanced to €312m, from €13m, or 2 cents, a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had estimated a loss of €30m. Sales dropped four percent to €10.75bn.

On the A380, the world’s largest passenger aircraft, Airbus shipped many parts to the final assembly line in Toulouse in France before they were ready to be pieced together. This time around, Airbus will use a “stop-and-fix policy,” Ring said, which lets it address difficulties as they occur rather than letting them pile up.

Airbus, the source of two-thirds of EADS sales, has delivered 418 aircraft so far this year until the end of October. The backlog for the A350 includes 75 for the A350-1000 and 373 for the A350-900, slated for end-of-2013 entry into service. The smallest, 250-seat A350-800 variant, which airlines have been moving away from to switch to larger models, has 119 orders.

Dubai’s Emirates Airline, which on Sunday announced a record $18bn deal with Boeing for 50 777-300 aircraft, currently has 50 A350-900 and 20 A350-1000 aircraft on order with Airbus. Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways also has 25 A350-1000 aircraft on order.

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