By Lionel Laurent and Tim Hepher
Boeing has 'got its act together' after delays to the competing 787 Dreamliner - Al Baker.
Qatar Airways has not received any indication of delays to the Airbus A350 and believes Boeing has "got its act together" after delays to the competing 787 Dreamliner, Chief Executive Akbar Al-Baker said on Thursday.
Al-Baker also told Reuters in an interview he was interested in a possible upgraded version of the Airbus A320 single-aisle jet that may be launched soon and was still examining the new C Series from Canada's Bombardier.
Qatar Airways is one of the world's fastest growing airlines having doubled its fleet in the last five years as the emirate establishes itself as a transport hub in competition with Dubai and Abu Dhabi airlines and carriers in Europe and Asia.
Al-Baker has strongly criticised Boeing over delays of two years in production of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, blamed by some industry analysts on extensive outsourcing.
"I think they have got their act together but the proof is in the pudding. They have to deliver the first airplane," he told Reuters on Thursday, speaking on the sidelines of a conference on investment in Qatar.
Concerns have also been raised over the future of Airbus's A350 after its parent company EADS said this month it had used up some of the "buffer" or spare margin in the development schedules for the 11 billion euro project.
The aircraft is due to be delivered in 2013, but Al-Bakr said he was not worried about a repeat of the 787 problems or similar delays in deliveries of the Airbus A380 superjumbo.
Qatar is the largest customer for Airbus's future mid-sized A350 with firm orders for 80 planes. It has also ordered 30 787s and five A380s, making it one of the industry's most powerful buyers alongside Emirates of Dubai.
Asked if he had received any indication of delays to the Airbus A350, Al-Baker said "no" and added the 787 crisis at Boeing had pushed Airbus to find ways to avoid the same fate.
"I think that it was a fantastic learning curve. If there is a delay it will be just a few months, but nothing more."
Both planes involve a leap in technology, using more carbon-fibre materials to make the aircraft lighter and more economic, flying as far on two engines as a 747 can on four.
Boeing and Airbus are also considering upgrading their single-aisle short- and medium-haul families of jets with new engines to offer 10 to 15 percent fuel savings from about 2015.
Al-Baker confirmed that Qatar Airways, seen as in the industry as a potential launch customer for the upgraded Airbus model, is interested in the potential new version. Airbus has said it will decide whether to go ahead with the plan this year.
"We are interested in the (upgraded) A320 because any aircraft that has better performance, better fuel burn, better range would be very interesting to us," Al-Baker said.
He reiterated his vow to launch a low-cost airline to hit back at competition in the Gulf if he saw Qatar's market share being eroded, "but up to now I don't see that happening".
Al-Baker issued the warning to counter expansion of regional low-cost Gulf airlines at last year's Paris air show.
He said Qatar was still looking at Bombardier's C Series, a new 110 to 130 plane designed to compete with the smaller jets of Boeing and Airbus.
"We are interested in the C Series of Bombardier and are talking to them," Al-Baker said.
Bombardier is looking for another major buyer to maintain momentum after selling to Germany's Lufthansa, Republic Airways and a small leasing firm. (Reuters)