Boeing has reportedly offered a freighter version of its 777X wide-body passenger jetliner to Qatar Airways, after the airline stated it would purchase over 30 of the variant.
After years of lobbying for a freighter version of the much-anticipated 777X, Qatar chief executive Akbar Al Baker told Reuters that Boeing had confirmed plans to produce the freighter version of the jet, and the Doha-based airline will be “at the front of the queue”.
The Qatar Airways CEO said the airline wants to replace its ageing fleet of freighters with “the best freighter that is available”.
“We would be very happy to be the launch customer [of the 777X freighter],” Al Baker said.
While Boeing has not made any formal announcement signalling its intention, chief executive Dave Calhoun later said he was “confident” that the future could hold a 777X freighter variant
Al Baker said that Qatar plans to invest millions in new cargo transporting freighters, as the airline’s current freighter fleet is becoming outdated.
“Qatar Airways is very interested in purchasing a large fleet of freighters because we have to now start replacing our old freighters,” he said.
“We have our program of replacement over several years and we would be very keen to place an order with Boeing or with Airbus, it all depends on how things proceed.”
Al Baker said Qatar was considering the purchase of the freighter version of the A350 from Airbus, however, recent disputes over quality control have deterred potential investments.
“With Boeing we have no issue, with Boeing we have a large 777X order and we will take those airplanes, we have made a recommendation with Boeing on the deliveries on those airplanes,” he added.
The Doha-based airline has a long-existing relationship with Boeing, with 60 orders for the passenger configured 777Xs. However, after many delays and deferrals during COVID, Al Baker expects deliveries to appear in 2023.
However, any plans to develop a 777X freighter are likely to be delayed due to ongoing certification issues and weak demand for the 777X passenger variant.
Qatar airways expressed interested at the 2019 Paris Air show, claiming it had “confidence” in Boeing to deliver what they wanted, World of Aviation previously reported.
Boeing has proposed to expand their freighter fleet by 60 per cent over the next 20 years because of the rise in e-commerce from its customers, despite huge financial losses last year.
Because of the pandemic, the US planemaker’s annual financial report saw a loss of US$12 billion, as well as a hefty US$6.5 billion hit on its 777X program, now delayed an additional three years.
The company’s net loss rose to US$8.44 billion in the fourth quarter ending 31 December, from US$1.01 billion a year earlier, taking its full-year loss to a record US$11.94 billion. Meanwhile, revenue fell 15 per cent to US$15.3 billion in the quarter.