At 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.
“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.
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.