Qatar pads order book with Boeing freighters

 - November 12, 2007, 4:24 AM

Gulf carrier Qatar Airways yesterday signed an order for five Boeing 777F cargo aircraft and took options on a further five. It also confirmed orders for 22 others previously from unidentified buyers–fourteen 777-300ERs, six -200LRs and two 777F cargo variants.

The first 777-300ER, already flying in Qatar Airways colors, will be delivered shortly with a second before year’s end in time for Doha-Washington, D.C. services from January 1. The airline also was confirmed as the previously unidentified customer for 30 Boeing 787s.

Qatar Airways has chosen the General Electric GE90-115B for its five new Boeing 777Fs and GENx engines for the previously ordered Boeing 787s. Combined with engines for earlier 777s, the GE90 business totals $1.2 billion. The GENx deal is worth some $800 million.

Like United Arab Emirates national carrier Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways appears to be trying to emulate Dubai-based Emirates Airline in its drive for growth, although the former two operators are not so obviously providing support for a national strategy of investment in travel, tourism and business. Qatar chief executive Akbar al-Baker said its Doha base stood at a huge crossroads and that the airline’s success was a measure of local economic growth and its value as a hub. He said the airline wanted to grow by being the most efficient and providing the best product.

Al-Baker said the airline was interested in obtaining new single-aisle equipment to augment the existing fleet, which will be 92-aircraft strong once all outstanding orders are fulfilled, and provide higher frequency. He said it would be good for Boeing if the U.S. manufacturer produced a composite-airframe narrowbody. However he did not restrict his consideration to Airbus and Boeing current or future products: “There are others, in the 80- to 100-seat category.”

Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Scott Carson said his company would compete aggressively when it had an aircraft to fit the requirement. “We are working with Qatar Airways and others very hard to define [such an aircraft] and bring it to market,” he said.