Qatar Airways expects to take delivery of the region's first Boeing 787 Dreamliner early next year, more than a year behind schedule.
The airline has 30 of the aircraft on order and holds options for another 30, making it one of the biggest customers for the Dreamliner, a jetliner with new features including a fuselage made mostly from lightweight carbon composite materials instead of aluminium.
On Monday, Boeing delivered its first Dreamliner to a customer, Japan's All Nippon Airways. The aircraft, which Boeing says is the company's most fuel-efficient, is about three years behind its original delivery timetable.
"Qatar Airways is planning to start taking delivery of its order of Boeing 787s early next year," the airline said.
The aircraft has been much anticipated because its more efficient engines will enable airlines to cut their carbon emissions while saving on fuel costs. As a result, it is the most popular new aircraft in aerospace history.
Fifteen per cent of the 821 orders are from Middle Eastern operators including Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Gulf Air and Royal Jordanian. Etihad has ordered 31 Dreamliners.
The lower cost of operation should allow regional carriers to make long-haul journeys previously requiring the use of such planes as Boeing's 777 and 747 and the Airbus A380.
Boeing says the Dreamliner is also faster and offers more legroom, enabling passengers to arrive at their destinations feeling more refreshed.
Qatar Airways emerged as one of the biggest critics of the delays in the delivery of the aircraft, with Akbar Al Baker, its chief executive, warning that the carrier could cancel its orders if further hold-ups occurred. No one was available yesterday from Qatar Airways to comment on whether it was still pursuing compensation claims against Boeing for the delays.
Cargolux, a freight carrier in which Qatar Airways owns a one-third stake, last week refused to accept delivery of a freighter version of Boeing's new 747-8 jet. The move by Cargolux, based in Luxembourg, led some analysts to question whether Qatar Airways might have played a part in the decision in an effort to further its own pursuit of compensation from Boeing for the 787 delays.
A string of design and production complications set back the delivery of the wide-body 787 and risked denting Boeing's reputation. Boeing aims to raise production to 10 Dreamliners a month by the end of 2013.
It had originally planned to deliver the first 787 in May 2008, and Qatar Airways' first planes in the summer of last year. The delays have benefited aircraft programmes at the rival Airbus, with an increase in orders for the in-service A330 and the under-development A350.
But for now Boeing is celebrating finally delivering its first 787.
"The 787 Dreamliner is the biggest innovation in commercial aviation since the Boeing 707 introduced the world to passenger jet travel more than 50 years ago," said Jim McNerney, Boeing's chairman and president.
The 787 is the first new class of aircraft launched by Boeing since the 777 in 1995.
Separately, Boeing announced on Tuesday the delivery of a fourth C-17 Globemaster III aircraft to the UAE Air Force and Air Defence from the plane maker's final-assembly facility in Long Beach, California. Boeing delivered the country's first three C-17s in May, June and July and is to deliver two more next year.