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Fri 26 Nov 2010 10:28 AM

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Qatar Air slams Boeing, may buy more Airbus

CEO says Boeing has failed on 787 programme, will consider increasing Airbus A380 orders

Qatar Air slams Boeing, may buy more Airbus
Boeing failed in development of 787 Dreamliner, which is likely to suffer further delay following a fire on a test flight\n - Photographer: Michele Tantussi/Bloomberg

The head of Qatar Airways criticised Boeing and accused Air France of rejecting peace overtures in a growing airline trade war over financing on Thursday as Gulf carriers shore up their rapid growth plans.

Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker lamented problems in plane projects at Boeing and Canada's Bombardier and threatened to shift extra business to Europe's Airbus.

He said Boeing had failed in development of its 787 Dreamliner, which is seen likely to suffer a further delay following a fire on a test flight, while Bombardier was suffering problems with its C Series jetliner.

He told a news conference: "I was really taken aback by the (787) programme. I never expected a programme could be delayed so much with a company like Boeing, which has pride in its quality. They have very clearly failed."

Development of the carbon composite 787 is running about three years late and analysts expect a further delay as Boeing addresses a fire which led to test flights being grounded.

Al Baker said Qatar Airways had been notified of some delays to 787 deliveries but declined to say whether this was before or after the test flight incident two weeks ago. Boeing declined to comment and Bombardier was not immediately available.

It is not the first time Al Bakr has criticised Boeing and his remarks were spiced with warnings that Airbus could not afford to delay its second largest plane, a 350 seat variant of the future A350, or else Boeing would have time to retaliate.

In 2006, Al Baker criticised Airbus's handling of delays in the 500 seat A380 and demanded compensation.

On Thursday, however, Al Baker said he was considering increasing his order for the world's largest airliner.

He said: "Today we have only five A380s on order and most definitely we will consider increasing this order."

Qatar Airways has not chosen engines for the 500 seat plane and its decision will not be affected by the recent blowout of a Rolls-Royce engine on a Qantas A380, he said.

Al Baker said Qatar could order a possible upgrade of the Airbus A320 150 seat jet, the backbone of many medium haul fleets, which he expected to be launched by year end.

The A320 with new engines, dubbed the NEO, is designed to compete with Bombardier, which is trying to eat into Airbus and Boeing's markets. Qatar nearly ordered the Bombardier C Series at Farnborough in July but pulled out at the last minute.

Qatar's concerns relate to the plane's engines, produced by United Technologies unit Pratt & Whitney.

He said: "If they (Bombardier) do not roll up their sleeves pretty fast then the NEO will eclipse them and people will be interested because they have the infrastructure in place."

Qatar and other Gulf airlines want new planes delivered quickly to support their plans to make the region an important hub. But there have been bitter clashes with European airlines over the alleged impact on traditional carriers.

US and European airlines have cried foul over credit rules that grant export loans to airlines in the Gulf and Asia when they buy Boeing or Airbus aircraft, but prevent airlines in countries where the planes are produced getting the same credit.

In a surprise move, a group of airlines including Qatar's Gulf rivals Emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi based Etihad effectively called the bluff of traditional airlines on Thursday, calling for them to get exactly what they want.

Emirates airline President Tim Clark reassured European airlines on Wednesday that Gulf carriers did "not want to kill" them. But he suggested traditional airlines would struggle to compete even with the extra assistance they are asking for.

The issue of export credits has turned into an ill tempered battle as the airline industry comes out of recession, echoing a long running feud over subsidies between Airbus and Boeing.

Al Bakr said he had invited both the chairman and the chief executive of Air France KLM to a dinner he would host in Paris later on Thursday, but that they had failed to respond.

He said: "The hand of friendship extended to Air France has not been reciprocated and this is not conducive to relations between our countries."

Air France KLM said it never commented on diary matters. Qatar and Emirates say they have prospered without handouts.

Al Baker said: "People have to change their perception of Arab carriers. We have to make money. Our governments have made it clear we have to stand on own feet or shrink, we don't have an oil well behind our headquarters to fuel our growth."  (Reuters)

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The Grand Master 9 years ago

Would love to read Mr. Al Baker view on how Qatar Airways will handle the traffic with such airliners and with NDIA is getting further delays that is not annouced yet and forced the authorities to build a temp terminal to ease the pressure bit on the existing terminal building.