By Neil Halligan
Doha-based carrier will launch new flights to Phuket, Marrakesh, Lisbon, as well as ultra-long flights to Santiago and New Zealand
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker has said the delay in delivering Airbus A320neo is having a “major financial impact” on the company’s revenues.
Qatar Airways was due to be the launch customer for the fuel-efficient jet, with Airbus scheduled to deliver the A320neo to the Gulf airline by the end of December. But Qatar Airways refused to take the jet as planned because of potentially costly operational restrictions on the Pratt & Whitney engines, believed to be related to turn-around times.
European rival Lufthansa became the first to fly the A320neo when it came into service yesterday. The new plane offers 15-percent lower fuel consumption thanks mainly to a choice of next-generation engines from Pratt & Whitney or CFM International, a joint venture of General Electric and France's Safran.
Qatar Airways’ concern over the engine was related to issues with performance in the Gulf region’s high temperatures, according to Al Baker.
He told Bloomberg that the delay in delivering the aircraft have a “very large financial impact”.
“We are ready to take [them] as soon as they are ready because it is extremely important for us to take deliveries of this airplanes because we are short of capacity,” he said.
Qatar was the launch customer for the Airbus A350-900 and Al Baker said he remains satisfied with its performance.
“We are the largest operator of the Airbus A350, we are clocking many thousands of hours on them up to now and we have a very high utilisation of that aircraft and we are very happy with that product,” he said.
The A350 will be used to further the airline’s expansion with more routes this year, including Phuket, Marrakesh and Lisbon, Al Baker said.
He said Qatar Airways plans to add two new long haul flights to Chile and Auckland this year, using Boeings 777-LR aircraft.
“We are also going to add two ultra-long haul flights during this year; one of them will be to Santiago in Chile and one of them will be to Auckland in New Zealand,” he said.
Al Baker said the airline is also looking to expand into Iran this year, but much of that will depend on aviation authorities in the country.
“Iran enjoys a very good relationship with my country. At the same time, Qatar Airway is expanding its services to Iran [long] before the sanctions are removed. We see Iran as a very important regional country and a very important regional friend of my country,” he said.
“Adding the routes [to Iran] as an airline CEO, I am very keen, but this all depends on the authorities on the other side, for them to allow us to operate more freely and with more frequencies and with more destinations to Iran,” Al Baker added.