Qatar Airways was the launch customer of the Airbus A350-1000, for which Airbus has now moved entry-into-service back from 2015 to 2017 in order to provide for a higher-thrust engine design from Rolls-Royce, increased payload and increased range.
John Leahy, Airbus COO, said Saturday at the EADS media day, that all delays for the -1000 and the -800, which is also seeing an EIS adjustment from 2014 to 2016, were “consensual” with the customers.
This makes comments by Akbar Al-Baker, Qatar’s CEO, all the more interesting. Al-Baker was at a Boeing press conference to announce the order of six 777-300ERs. In the Q&A, he was asked about the A350-1000. His response from the recording we made:
Q. How does the performance of the revised A350-1000 compare to the 777?
Al-Baker: …We have great confidence in Boeing, they have the finest products in the range of the Triple 7 type. As far as the A350s are concerned, it is still a paper airplane. The proof is in the pudding. The Triple 7 is already flying. It is doing fantastic. It is reaping us huge benefits. I would not like to talk about the Dash 1000 at the moment until I have been properly briefed by Airbus and of course I will critique that product when I have been given more details, as I do not have them. It would be unfair for me to sit her and criticize the competitor’s product, especially since we are the launch customer.
Q. I know you don’t want to talk about the A350-1000 in detail, but could you give us any reaction at all to the delay? Is that going to pose a significant problem for you?
A. Yes, we are hearing rumors that the aircraft will have significant delay. This will dent our expansion and fleet replacement program. As CEO of an airline, it would never make me happy that one of the programs we are so dependent on is getting delayed. This is very disappointing to us. We hope that the performances they are today talking about is the right information and it will do what Airbus says they are intending to do.
Qatar has also been a key target to order the Bombardier CSeries. Expectations were high at the Farnborough Air Show last year that Qatar would do so and when it didn’t, BBD suffered huge negative press. Expectations have been that the order was likely ready to go at this show. We learned shortly before the show that there would be no order.
We caught up to Al-Baker immediately after the Boeing press conference ended and had this exchange:
Q. Could tell me what your approach to the CSeries right now. It seems to be on and off, on and off, on and off.
A. No, the CSeries, we have just deferred our decision because we have so many airplanes coming one after the other within the same time, so we have deferred it. We still have confidence in the CSeries. We feel it is a very fine airplane. We have not changed our mind, we have just deferred the decision until not too long in the future.
Q. How long? Three months, five months?
A. I don’t know. We still are quite busy with what is in the pipeline, but we are still very keen. I assure you that the CSeries is an extremely fine airplane in its category of aircraft.