Qatar Airways says it is confident Boeing will avoid further hold-ups in its 787 Dreamliner programme despite three years of frustrating delays for customers. Akbar al Baker, the chief executive, said on Saturday he was confident the carrier would receive its first 787 by the end of next year.
Although the Dreamliner programme has suffered delays stretching back to 2007, Boeing has a total of 847 orders and is scheduled to deliver the first aircraft to ANA of Japan early next year. The Dreamliner's varied troubles have included problems with suppliers and even an onboard fire during a test flight last month. The 787 is the first commercial passenger aircraft to be more than 45 per cent made up of advanced composite materials. The number of orders for the jet, coming from 65 airlines, lessors and private owners, makes it one of the most successful new aircraft in history. Fifteen per cent of the orders are from Middle East operators including Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Gulf Air and Royal Jordanian.
Qatar Airways, which has emerged as one of the most critical of Boeing's 787 customers, appears to be softening its impatience with Boeing. "We still have confidence in Boeing that it will deliver airplane as per contractual obligations," Mr al Baker said. "I don't think there will be another slip." However, he echoed previous warnings that Qatar Airways could ultimately cancel its orders for 30 aircraft and 30 options if the programme endured more setbacks. "If there keeps on being slippages, if there is another slip, then yes, we will have no alternative," he said.
Mr al Baker's latest statement was sharply different from remarks he made last month, when he said Boeing's 787 programme had "very clearly failed", prompting Boeing officials to respond that Qatar should do "what's best for its fleet".
Delays this year have led customers to cancel orders for 41 Dreamliners, but the US aircraft maker also continues to receive orders - 36 so far this year. Boeing had originally planned to deliver the first Dreamliner in May 2008, and Qatar Airways' first planes in summer this year. The delays have benefited aircraft programmes at Airbus, with an increase in orders for the in-service A330 and the in-development A350.