Qatar Air is in a mystery spat with Airbus

Aid given: A Qatar Airways aircraft is seen at an airport in Asia. It has accepted US$3bil in support from the Qatari government since the start of the pandemic. ─ Bloomberg

DOHA: Qatar Airways chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker lashed out at Airbus SE for the second time this month, warning his airline might stop taking deliveries from the French planemaker this year over an unspecified “serious” issue.

“We have an issue with Airbus we need to settle, and if we are not able to settle that serious issue we have with them, we will refuse to take any aircraft from them, ” he said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. Problems with Qatar Airways, Al Baker warned, will cause Airbus “a stress in the relationship with IAG, with LatAm, with other airlines in which we have a shareholding.”

The subject of the spat? “I unfortunately cannot tell you what that issue is, ” Al Baker said. Airbus won’t say either. A spokesperson for the Blagnac, France-based company said it’s in constant discussions with customers about their requirements, and that details on those discussions “remain confidential”.

The warning comes days after the airline chief criticised Airbus’s giant A380 jets over their inefficiency and operational cost. However, he said his dissatisfaction with that aircraft was “water under the bridge” and not the subject of the latest dispute.

The Qatari carrier has leaned on its diverse fleet to keep flying during the pandemic and expects to service more than 140 destinations by mid-summer. Smaller planes have allowed the carriers to fly with fewer passengers amid the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s even added a handful of new routes to its roster, including Seattle and San Francisco.

Staying in the air hasn’t come cheap. Al Baker said the airline’s accepted US$3bil (RM12.41bil) in support from the Qatari government since the start of the pandemic. The state-run carrier received its first injection of aid after its losses topped 50% of share capital last year.

Qatar’s expecting to take delivery of planes from Airbus and Boeing Co this year, Al Baker said, after a strident campaign to defer deliveries from both companies last year.

Al Baker also said the Doha-based carrier will be the launch customer for Boeing’s highly anticipated 777x in 2023, backtracking on comments made just last week saying it wouldn’t. Qatar Airways has ordered 60 of the new model, which is being billed as the “world’s largest and most efficient twin-engine jet”.

The forced landing of a Ryanair jet flying over Belarus “is something (that) should have never happened, ” Al Baker said. He warned it could “create a precedent” for other countries. Still, Qatar Airways isn’t stopping flights over the country. ─ Bloomberg

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