Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker officially endorsed the Boeing 777-9X yesterday here in Farnborough by converting the 50-airplane memorandum of understanding announced at the Dubai Air Show last year to a firm order. A separate agreement to take purchase rights for another fifty 777-9Xs could increase the value Qatar’s investment from $18.9 billion to $37.7 billion at list prices. Finally, Al Baker also announced his intention to order four 777 Freighters and place options on another four.
The Qatar Airways boss said he would use the new 777-9Xs to replace many of his company’s existing current-generation 777s, in line with a policy of maintaining an average fleet age of no older than five years. Meanwhile, plans call for Qatar’s new leasing arm to supply many of the airplanes represented by purchase rights to other operators.
“I know that people always say at air shows that aircraft manufacturers always like to make big orders,” Al Baker said. “But with Qatar Airways Boeing knows we are serious, that every single purchase right we had done in the past we exercised. So we are committed to the numbers of airplanes that we signed for.”
Boeing expects to deliver the airplanes in 2020, making Qatar (Chalet C27-28) one of the type’s first operators.
On the subject of Qatar’s fleet mix, Al Baker laid to rest any idea that the 777X commitment might signal a retreat from the airline’s commitment for the A350-1000. “Once we sign for something we don’t walk away, unless of course the manufacturers screw up with the performance of the airplane,” he said in a not-so-veiled reference to his recent refusal to accept three A380s due to Airbus’s failure to meet some of Qatar’s specifications.