While threatening to cancel Airbus orders Monday, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said the airline is in talks to replace the jets with with Boeing aircraft.
Qatar Airways could walk away from as many as six Airbus deals after problems with A320neo hydraulics and software and turn instead to Boeing. The order is worth $643.8 million at current list prices.
“We have talked to Airbus, they know very well that we’re a very unhappy, very unhappy customer,” Baker said, according to Reuters. Boeing is “trying to oblige and give us the aircraft we require.”
Such a deal could help strengthen Boeing’s relationship with a key airline in its competition with Airbus.
Middle Eastern carriers – Qatar, Emirates and Etihad – are heavy buyers. Boeing expects Middle East airlines will buy more than 3,000 airplanes in the next 20 years, worth more than $730 billion. Qatar Airways was the Middle East launch customer for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.
If Qatar went with Boeing 737 Next Generation jets instead of the A320neos, it would be a big win for Boeing’s Renton facility, which is already ramping up to keep up with demand. Renton is in the process of shifting to the 737 Max while simultaneously making 737NGs.
Aerospace analyst Scott Hamilton is skeptical about Baker’s comments.
“Akbar Al Baker is notorious for complaining in the press and negotiating in the press. It used to be he complained about the 787 delays. Then the A380 quality. Then A350 quality,” he said. “Unless Boeing has a bunch of NGs just lying around, Qatar can’t get any for a few years.”
By then, Hamilton said, Al Baker will have the Airbus jets his company ordered.
Qatar Airways once considered canceling its Dreamliner orders as Boeing struggled with early 787 production woes. Al Baker complained about the A320neo engines last month, claiming they were inadequately tested for high temperatures in the Gulf region.
Airbus told the airline it will make fixes to the aircraft by the end of the year.