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Akbar Al Baker, left, of Qatar Airways, says the airline expects to operate 10 Dreamliners by the end of the year. Antonie Robertson / The National
Akbar Al Baker, left, of Qatar Airways, says the airline expects to operate 10 Dreamliners by the end of the year. Antonie Robertson / The National

Grounding of Boeing Dreamliner fleet cost Qatar Airways $200m

Arabian Travel Market: The grounding of the Qatar Airways Dreamliner fleet cost the carrier US$200 million in lost revenues.

The grounding of the Qatar Airways Dreamliner fleet cost the carrier US$200 million in lost revenues.

Its chief executive Akbar Al Baker made the disclosure yesterday in response to questions from The National.

The airline's fleet of five Dreamliner 787s was grounded earlier this year following a directive from regulators in both Washington and Doha, issued because of suspected problems with the airliner's battery systems.

"We are well into the remodification of the power unit in the plane," Mr Al Baker said in Dubai yesterday.

Two of the planes have already returned to service and all five are expected to be back within two weeks.

The carrier, one of Boeing's biggest customers for the aircraft, expects to have a total of 10 Dreamliners in service by the end of the year, by which time it is to operate from a new airport and be part of a new global alliance.

Qatar Airways will join the Oneworld alliance in October, tapping into a network of carriers that includes American Airlines, British Airways and Cathay Pacific and operates from 860 airports in 160 countries.

Mr Al Baker said entering the alliance would mean cheaper fares for Qatar Airways' customers.

The carrier is also preparing to occupy the delayed and over-budget $15 billion Hamad International Airport in Doha.

The new airport will include 270,000 square feet of shopping space, a 23,000 sq ft public mosque and two 100-room five-star transfer hotels, according to HOK, the architect that designed the main passenger terminal.

The airport, designed to accommodate 28 million passengers, is expected to be complete by the final quarter of the year.

That will allow Qatar Airways to ramp up its route expansion and new aircraft deliveries.

Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are increasing their market share of global travel as they invest billions of dollars in expanding their airports and fleets and draw passengers away from more established European airports.

The return to service of Qatar Airways' Dreamliner fleet will allow the carrier to use the aircraft on its London, Frankfurt and Munich routes from next month, Mr Al Baker said.

In all, 50 Dreamliners were grounded by various airlines in January after the batteries on an All Nippon Airways 787 overheated in flight, which forced an emergency landing.

A separate incident aboard a Japan Airlines 787 on the ground at Boston airport started a fire.

The new airliner is the first to be constructed mainly from composite materials, making it up to 20 per cent more fuel-efficient than existing jets, says Boeing.

 

scronin@thenational.ae

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