Paris // Qatar Airways opened the Paris Air Show with a US$1.7 billion (Dh6.24bn) order for more long-range 777 jets from Boeing to fuel what its chief executive called its "relentless growth".
Saudi Arabian Airlines and unidentified customers also placed orders for new jets from Boeing and Airbus as the fragile airline industry made cautious investments during a time of economic shocks and high fuel prices.
The Qatari order for six 777-300ER passenger planes is expected to be the first in a series by the carrier, based in Doha, which hinted at potential deals for the Airbus A320NEO and the A380 superjumbo this week.
"We are expanding our international network rapidly and adding new routes and destinations that will extend Qatar Airways' reach across the globe, especially as we aim to open up more non-stop routes to popular and under-served cities around the world," said Akbar Al Baker, the chief executive of Qatar Airways. The Middle East region also gave Airbus its first order of the day as Saudi Arabian Airlines committed to a purchase of four additional A330-300 aircraft, in a deal worth $880 million at list prices.
The four aircraft just ordered are in addition to eight ordered in July 2008, taking the total order for the type to 12.
Boeing also logged business for its updated 747-8 Intercontinental jet with unidentified customers ordering 17 aircraft worth $5.4bn. The orders "mark a major milestone for the programme", said Jim Albaugh, the president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
Other Gulf airlines have reduced their presence at the Paris show, with Emirates Airline saying it would look to the Dubai Airshow in November to order more long-range jets.
Yesterday's Qatar Airways order follows an order by the airline in April for five 777s worth $1.4bn at list prices, cementing the Boeing jet's status as the backbone of the carrier's long-range fleet, Mr Al Baker said.
With gifts and handshakes exchanged yesterday, the chiefs of Qatar Airways and Boeing also seemed to put to rights the sometimes fractious relationship between the two companies. Problems arose over delays in the 787 Dreamliner programme, which counts Qatar Airways as a major customer, culminating in Mr Al Baker publicly criticising the US company.
But yesterday he said Qatar Airways and Boeing had gone "from strength to strength, despite the few hiccups".
Qatar Airways became a Boeing customer in 2007 and currently operates 25 777s, including two freighters, with another 15 of the type on order.
The 777-300ER is the highest-capacity version of the jet, with a list price of $284m. It has a range of 14,500km with 451 passengers in a business and economy class configuration.