Qatar Airways to get 3 A380s in June
Berlin, March 5, 2014
Qatar Airways will take delivery of its first three Airbus A380 aircraft in June and inaugurate its superjumbo services with a daily flight to London, chief executive Akbar Al Baker said on Wednesday.
He also told a news conference in Berlin that planemaker Airbus was on schedule to deliver its first A350 to Qatar "towards the end of this year".
Qatar Airways is the launch customer for Europe's new mid-sized passenger jet, with 80 A350s on order.
It has also ordered 10 of the larger A380s and says it has a total of 300 Airbus and Boeing jets on order, including options.
Al Baker, who has previously criticised the reliability of the 787 Dreamliner, said the airline continued to have "issues" with Boeing's latest airplane but described them as normal teething troubles for a new model.
He was speaking at the world's largest tourism fair, where the airline unveiled its A380 offering including wireless Internet and what it says will be the industry's widest first-class seats, supplied by B/E Aerospace.
Qatar Airways also said it will be flying to a new destination, Tokyo's Haneda, on top of six routes already announced for this year including Philadelphia, Dallas and Miami in the US.
It recently said it will start all-business class travel between London and Doha on an Airbus A319, a premium service that Al Baker joked would "not be cheap".
Al Baker confirmed Qatar has applied to be allowed to set up pre-clearance facilties to screen passengers heading for US airports from its new Hamad International in Doha, echoing a practice recently adopted in the UAE.
He said the delayed opening of Qatar's new Doha airport would happen soon, starting with low-cost carriers and those without onward connections, and that he believed it would be running by the time Qatar hosts an airlines meeting in June.
He said Qatar Airways is looking to build on traditional airline alliances in preference to buying equity stakes in other carriers, dismissing the strategy of Gulf rival Etihad.
Qatar Airways joined the Oneworld alliance last year and said that the move has brought in more than $50 million of additional revenue over the past four months.
"A merger gets you a foothold in another country and you have to pay many millions. I am doing it free of charge with Oneworld. The effect is the same," Al Baker said. "I like to make money, not lose money," he added.
Al Baker said the airline had signed partnerships with British Airways and Cathay Pacific as part of the Oneworld alliance and is in talks for more, though he declined to name the other parties.
Asked about comments by Air Berlin's CEO on Tuesday, saying that airline alliances had passed their peak, Al Baker said that alliances offer considerable benefits and airlines need to choose which alliance suit them.
Al Baker said he would be open to a partnership with Air Berlin under Oneworld but that he thought it would not be possible, given that the German carrier is almost 30 percent owned by Etihad. "I frankly don't believe they will approach us or that Etihad will allow that," he said. - Reuters