Qatar Airways, Airbus kiss and make up with $6.5b order
Qatar Airways has placed a $6.5bn order for Airbus jetliners, just hours after a tense standoff that saw CEO Akbar Al Baker tell the European giant it needed to learn how to build airplanes. The outspoken chief executive had earlier scrapped a press conference expected to confirm the order for five A380 superjumbos and 50 A320neos, plus a further 30 on option, after announcing an “impasse” in negotiations with Airbus.
"As far as Airbus is concerned, we have reached an impasse with them,” the CEO of the Doha-based carrier said during a press conference to announce an order for two Boeing 777 freighters. “We thought we would conclude an agreement and make an announcement today. Unfortunately, I feel that Airbus is still learning how to make airplanes. If this is resolved we will call [a press conference] again. If not we will say bye bye."
Al Baker, who previously accused Boeing of being run by “bean-counters” at the height of the 787 Dreamliner delays, hinted the spat was a result of design and delivery frustrations.
Airbus has pushed back the delivery of its new A350 jetliner by six months, at a cost of $272m, in a bid to deliver a more fuel-efficient rival to Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. Al Baker had said previously on Tuesday he was pessimistic that the Airbus deal would be concluded this week, amid outstanding contractual concerns.
“Price is not always the mitigating factor. It has a lot to do with the contract. We don’t announce [anything] until we have a waterproof document in front of us,” he said. "A six month delay for a new programme in my opinion is insignificant. Any further delays will concern us because we have a plan. We cannot accept… disruption of our expansion. Every manufacturer knows that Qatar Airways will not wait indefinitely.”
Qatar Airways is one of the world’s largest buyers of new aircraft, with deals for 80 Airbus A350s and six Boeing 777-300ER among those in its order book. The carrier’s massive order book underpins its plan to serve more than 120 routes by 2013 with a 120-strong fleet, as it seeks to make Doha an international transit hub.
It’s not the first time Europe’s largest planemaker has been blasted by Al Baker. At the Paris Air Show in June, he warned Qatar Airways might abandon its order for the Airbus A350-1000 after the redesign threatened to fall short of Boeing’s 777-300ER.
On Tuesday, Al Baker said he was still “unhappy” with the design, and said nothing much had changed since the unveiling of the revamped model at the French event.