The head of Qatar Airways has confirmed that no new aircraft will join his fleet until 2022, with deliveries expected to be delayed by up to 10 years. The 737 MAX ordered for the defunct Air Italy will be exchanged.
Asked by Sky News on June 17, 2020, the CEO of the Qatari national company based at Doha-Hamad International Airport Akbar Al Baker confirmed the result of discussions held last month with Airbus and Boeing: Qatar Airways will not take delivery moreover « no commercial aircraft this year, nor next year ». It currently expects 40 A321neo, ten A321LR, and 29 additional A350-1000s, as well as ten Boeing 777-8, fifty Boeing 777-9, and 23,787-9 additional; Forty aircraft should have joined his fleet in 2020. And the director said that all the planes that were to be delivered during this period « will now be postponed, to almost eight to ten years ».
The threat sent to the two manufacturers in early June was reiterated: « If the business resumes and traffic increases again then yes, we will accelerate the deliveries of these delayed aircraft. But aircraft manufacturers should know that if they do not respond favorably to our request, then we will have to reassess our long-term business relationships with each of them. » One of these requests concerns the thirty Boeing 737 MAX aircraft ordered for its subsidiary Air Italy, which disappeared in February: three had delivered, but according to the manager « we will no longer need » these planes. He said he had already informed the manufacturer « that we will have to replace them with another type of aircraft ».
This interview comes after IATA confirmed that the Oneworld alliance company had become « the largest in the world in the last three months », having repatriated between March and the end of May more than 1.8 million travelers stranded by the Covid-19 pandemic, on more than 15,000 flights (for 17.8% market share). Qatar Airways has also announced plans to cut its workforce by a fifth due to the impact of the health crisis, with around 50 planes to be grounded for at least three years. And is expected to separate about 20% of its workforce.
As the global recovery in air traffic continues, Qatar Airways announced last month that it wanted to “gradually rebuild its network”, to offer flights to 80 destinations at the end of June. Other lines have been added since, including Algiers, Casablanca, and Geneva – but always subject to the reopening of the borders. Akbar Al Baker hopes by the end of August to reach 75% of the flights scheduled initially, against 35% currently; but he doesn’t expect a return to normal before 24 months.