Qatar Airways Announces Massive Boeing Order

qatar-787At a press conference in Washington, DC on Friday morning, Qatar Airways announced an order for 30 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and 10 777-300ERs, valued at $11.7 billion at list prices. The airline also signed a Letter of Intent for up to 60 737 MAX 8s, valued at $6.9 billion at list prices. This is clearly an intentional shot to the gut of rival manufacturer, Airbus.

Today’s announcement builds on Qatar Airways’ current fleet of 84 Boeing aircraft, a combination of 787s and 777s, all delivered over the last nine years. With this new order, Qatar Airways increases its firm order backlog of Boeing widebody airplanes from 65 to 105, including 60 777Xs. The slower sales of the 777-300ER this year mean that Qatar probably received a handsome discount on these planes.

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Business Class on Qatar Airways 787-8 Dreamliner (photo: author)

“Qatar Airways, already one of the fastest growing airlines in the history of aviation, today announces a significant and historic aircraft order that will power our future growth for the years and the decades ahead,” said Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker. “Boeing has proven to be a valuable partner, and today’s announcement is testament to our appreciation of the quality of their product and their dedication to providing world class customer service.”

Al Baker has been passionately vocal about the issues his airline has experienced with Airbus this year. Qatar declined to take delivery of its first A320NEO aircraft, due to lingering problems with its Pratt & Whitney 1100G engines. The airline was supposed to be the launch customer for the A320NEO, but Lufthansa ended up taking first delivery once Qatar backed away. Since then, it has been received by six other airlines, including Air Asia, IndiGo, GoAir, Pegasus, Viva Aerobus, and Volaris.

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Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker with Boeing’s Ray Conner

Qatar still has A320NEO orders on the books with Airbus, but they sent a very clear message about their dissatisfaction by signing a letter of intent (LOI) to purchase up to sixty Boeing 737 MAX-8s along with the firm order for the 777s and 787s this morning.

Qatar was the first to operate the 787 in the Middle East and is a launch customer for the 777X. With the commitment for the 737 MAX 8, it would be the first Boeing single-aisle airplane model to join Qatar Airways’ fleet in more than 15 years. The airline previously flew Boeing 727s.

“Congratulations to The Boeing Company and Qatar Airways on the remarkable milestone they’ve reached, which will significantly grow the number of Boeing aircraft in the Qatar Airways fleet,” said U.S. Secretary of CommercePenny Pritzker. “Beyond its importance for these two companies, this agreement demonstrates the importance of global commercial partnerships in strengthening our bilateral ties. This deal will strengthen economic opportunity and job creation, and highlights the importance of strong global trading relationships.”

“We are so very proud that a discerning and market-leading customer like Qatar Airways not only continues to endorse our current products, but  also has confidence in Boeing’s new technology that will soon be evident on the 777X and 737 MAX,” said  Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner. “Our partnership with Qatar Airways has grown and strengthened tremendously over the years and I look forward to the time when its fleet will feature an increasing number of both our single and twin-aisle airplanes.”

In his remarks, Al Baker said, “Boeing’s competitors [Airbus] don’t want me saying this, but inside they know this is true: Boeing makes the best airplanes.” However, passengers might beg to differ as it is widely known among industry analysts that the economy seats in the Airbus A320NEO and A350XWB are wider and thus more comfortable.

Having flown with Qatar Airways a handful of times myself, it is exciting to see them continuing to advance their fleet growth. Though the Airbus A320NEO and A350-XWB are wider and thus more comfortable for economy class passengers, the airline has made growth and route expansion a priority. After all, few passengers will bother to research things like seat width between different aircraft types – but they should.

 

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Avgeek DREAM Come True — My First Boeing 787 Flight

I finally took my very first flight on board a Boeing 787 Dreamliner! I’ve been following this aircraft since it was on the drawing board, and still called the 7E7. I joined the World Design Team and participated in the naming contest, though “Dreamliner” did not get my vote. In 2008. my wife and I even made a special Seattle detour prior to an Alaskan cruise, just to see the first 787 (ZA001) on the assembly line in Everett.

I had toured a couple of 787s in the past, including test aircraft ZA003 during Boeing’s World Dream Tour at DFW, and British Airways’ first 787-8, G-ZBJA, but I had yet to fly on one until this week. My inaugural flight was aboard British Airways’ first 787-9 Dreamliner, G-ZBKA.

My trip was part of a media assignment for AirwaysNews, and my full trip report will be on that site very soon. But here, I just wanted to share my experience in a more personal way, and reflect on some notes that I found interesting.

Before my flight, I had always made the assumption that the dimmable, electromagnetic window shades were more of a gimmick than something that was really necessary. This flight completely changed my mind! Leaving Heathrow, I sat in seat 1A, which had the sun on my side during the first half of the flight. I dimmed my window shortly after takeoff. The first couple of steps still allow you to see outside with a lot of detail, but without being blinded by direct sun. It became pleasant to look outside. With the window completely darkened, it wasn’t a full blackout, but the sunlight now appeared as moonlight, making the cloud tops glow beneath us as we soared over the North Atlantic.

British Airways' 787-9 First Class. Photo by Paul Thompson.
British Airways’ 787-9 First Class. Photo by Paul Thompson.

Everything about the flight was excellent, from the quiet cabin to the service by the flight attendants, the seat comfort, and entertainment options. As you’ll see in the photo above, the seat area is spacious, and appointed with high-end materials and features. Once again, there will be many more details about the trip on AirwaysNews, so please check it out.

I’ll have more 787 experience in the weeks to come, including a trip to the other side of the world, so stay tuned for that!

Boeing Sets New All-Time Quarterly Delivery Record!

Boeing announced today that the company had set a record for aircraft deliveries in the third quarter of this year. One hundred ninety nine aircraft were handed over to their new owners, between July 1st and September 30th — which factors out to over two planes every single day!

For the quarter, Boeing delivered 126 737NGs, four 747s, five 767s, twenty seven 777s, and thirty seven 787s.

Image courtesy Boeing
Image courtesy Boeing

The total delivery number for the year sits at 580 airplanes. 101 of those planes have been 787 Dreamliners. Previously, the quarterly record was set just three months ago, in which 197 Boeing were delivered in Q2 of this year. Boeing VP Randy Tinseth says, “Bottom line—it’s all part of our goal to get airplanes into the hands of our customers as quickly as possible.”

American 787-8 Dreamliner. Image via Boeing
American 787-8 Dreamliner. Image via Boeing

One airline, American Airlines has experienced delays on the deliveries of their new 787s – not because of Boeing, but because of production delays from French seat maker Zodiac. Zodiac’s production facility in eastern Washington experienced an explosion in min-July of this year, in which five people were injured. The company’s shares dropped after the Runway Girl Network reported that American was seeking a new seat supplier for its 787-9 deliveries, slated for 2016. Zodiac experienced an explosion at its facility in eastern Washington in July of this year, injuring five. Rival company B/E Aerospace is presumed to be the new supplier.

B-29 “Doc” Inches Toward Its Second First Flight

Did you know that where is currently exactly ONE airworthy Boeing B-29 Superfortress in the world? It’s true, and her name is Fifi. Maintained by the Commemorative Air Force, Fifi has been making the rounds at airshows and movie appearances for decades. But a restoration group in Kansas has located and spent the past few years restoring another B-29, named Doc – and Doc will soon be taking to the skies as well.

Image via "Doc's Friends"
Image via “Doc’s Friends”

Doc first rolled off the assembly line in Wichita, Kansas in March of 1944, registered 44-69972. After seeing no action during the war, Doc was assigned to radar calibration duty in the 1950s, in a squadron known as the Seven Dwarfs. Doc towed aerial targets, until being assigned to duty as a bombing target in 1955. Remarkably, Doc survived 42 years as a bombing target largely intact, which perhaps speaks to the design of the aircraft and “Superfortress” moniker. Doc was discovered wasting away in the Mojave desert in 1987, and finally recovered from the desert in 1998. In 2000, Doc was returned to Wichita, Kansas, its original assembly site. The foundation “Doc’s Friends” was formed in 2013, to restore the plane, headed by retired Spirit AeroSystems CEO Jeff Turner.


Since that time, volunteers have spent thousands of hours restoring Doc. The foundation had hoped to have the B-29 up and running in time for EAA’s Airventure this summer in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where Fifi made an appearance. However, on Friday, Doc’s engines were started successfully for the first time. The restoration group is now currently working to achieve an airworthiness certificate for Docand plans to perform test flights at McConnell Air Force Base, according to Flying. 

Image via "Doc's Friends"
Image via “Doc’s Friends”

Between 1943 and 1946, 3,970 B-29s were produced. Two B-29s are famous for ending the Pacific theater of World War II. Enola Gay, callsign “Dimples 82” dropped a Little Boy nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, August 6th, 1945. Three days later, Bockscar released a Fat Man bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. Six days after that, Japan’s surrender was announced to the world, over the radio waves.

Four Seasons to Open a 5th Resort in Hawaii

If you’re dreaming of a vacation at a Hawaiian resort, you can now book a stay at Four Seasons’ newest Hawaiian resort, the Four Seasons Resort O‘ahu at Ko Olina. Opening on June 1st of next year, the property will be Four Seasons’ fifth resort in Hawaii.

Photo courtesy Four Seasons
Photo courtesy Four Seasons

Nelson Hilton, Senior Director of Marketing said that high demand led to the decision to open reservations nine months in advance. “We’ve had so many inquiries from all over the world asking when the new Four Seasons will open, so we’ve decided to start taking reservations for next year as of today. Even sight unseen and before we’ve revealed any details, the global reputation of Four Seasons in Hawaii has assured travelers that our fifth resort – the first on Oahu – will be nothing short of extraordinary.”

Image courtesy Four Seasons
Image courtesy Four Seasons

Four Seasons Resort O’ahu at Ko Olina boasts 358 rooms and suites, five restaurants, lounges, a spa, tennis club, event spaces for 900 guests,and of course, Hawaii’s white sand beaches. The resort is located on Oahu’s tranquil southwestern coast, away from the busy Waikiki area. Rates start at $595 per night, but eager opportunists can get their fourth night free during an introductory offer. Other Four Seasons resorts in Hawaii are located on Lanai, the Big Island, Lanai-Koele, and Maui.

Long Live the Queens – British Airways Revamped 747s Begin Service

As many of the world’s airlines continue to retire Boeing 747-400s from their fleets, British Airways is flying in the face of their opponents, by giving an extended life to these much-beloved birds. Just over a year after announcing plans to upgrade a set of 747-400 interiors, BA rolled out the first of the planes this week, serving the Heathrow to JFK route.

 Picture by: Stuart Bailey / British Airways
BA’s new Club World on the 747-400. Picture by: Stuart Bailey / British Airways

Other updated 747s will fly from Heathrow to Chicago, Lagos, Dubai, Boston, Riyadh and Kuwait, with other routres to be announced by next summer. What’s new with these old planes? They have received some of the modern accoutrements that are found on their newer siblings in the fleet, the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787. An updated in-flight entertainment system will now feature Panasonic’s Android-based eX3 platform, allowing passengers to operate the system as they would with a familiar tablet device. Entertainment selections will include 1,300 hours of entertainment from which to choose, including over 130 movies, plus 400 TV shows. The modern system will weigh less than its predecessor, which will bring fuel savings.

747 Refresh Ground Trial September 11th 2015 British Airways Picture by: Stuart Bailey / British Airways
Picture by: Stuart Bailey / British Airways

“We know that in-flight entertainment is really important to our customers – being able to relax and watch a film or listen to music helps customers to pass the time enjoyably – so by installing this state-of-the-art equipment we will be able to deliver even more programming on board,” said Richard D’Cruze, British Airways’ in-flight entertainment and technology manager.

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World Traveler Seat on a BA 787 – by Paul Thompson

Why spend a bunch of money to upgrade the same planes that many airline are sending to the scrapyard? “Our customers love our new aircraft, but the 747s hold a special place in their heart, so we’re delighted to have been able to revamp these aircraft. They’ll look and feel like new now, with enhanced comfort, technology and design,” said Kathryn Doyle, British Airways’ aircraft cabin interiors manager.

Keeping the planes flying allows BA to strategically route aircraft of just the right size to match a route. For example, BA began service to Austin, Texas last year with the 787-8, but will be upgrading to the larger 777-200 next month. In Denver, BA switched from the 777-200 to the (non-upgraded) 747-400. On Tuesday, BA announced that in San Diego, the 777-200 will soon be replaced by the four class 777-300.

BA 747-400 (image by British Airways)
BA 747-400 (image by British Airways)

The 747 first entered service in 1970, with Pan American Airways, making international flights affordable to the masses, by dramatically lowering operating costs. British Airways website says the airline currently has 42 747-400s in the fleet, which makes it reasonable to draw the conclusion that the 24 non-updated 747s will be retired sooner than later.

WalMart’s Mass Exodus from Denver Forces Airlines to Work Together

Like many conventions, the Walmart convention this week in Denver involved the arrival and departure of several thousand people from one airport. But who would gave known that such an exodus would force collaboration between several airlines?On site at Denver International Airport on Thursday, I witnessed an armada of rented Budget box trucks pull up to the arrivals level at DIA, full of luggage that had been checked in and pre-screened at many of Denver’s downtown hotels. Before this day, I had only seen offsite baggage checkin offered in places like Las Vegas and Orlando. And it’s not something that is normally offered in Denver. But when a HUGE company like Walmart brings over 5,000 folks from around the country, concessions are made. Employees from Alaska Airlines, Delta and Southwest, along with an airport service contractor all worked together in the intense Colorado sun for five hours to sort bags and get them to the right airlines and the right flights as they came off the trucks. I even overheard someone say, “One airport, one team.”

Trucks rented by Bags, Inc for Walmart convention attendees. Photo by Paul Thompson.

A company called Bags, Inc. provided a luggage valet service at several hotels, then rounded up the bags, screened them according to TSA specifications, and brought them all to DIA at a cost of only $5 per bag. That seems pretty reasonable, for the ability to travel luggage free from your hotel to destination airport. On their website, it says the charge for their bag VIP service is normally $29.95 for one bag, $39.95 for two bags, and $49.95 for 3-8 bags. Obviously, the Walmart contingent received a bulk discount.

The departure board at DIA shows United and Southwest flights to Fayetteville. Photo by Paul Thompson.

On Thursday, Southwest operated four charter flights from Denver (DEN) to Fayetteville, Arkansas (XNA). United also has one daily scheduled nonstop from DEN-XNA. Bentonville, Arkansas is 28 miles from Fayetteville, and the home of Walmart’s corporate headquarters.

*This story was written by originally appeared on NYCAviation. Republished with permission.