Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker has flagged his urgent interest in wide-body freighters and says he is ready to place orders by the end of the quarter.
After months of Al Baker’s requests, the Doha-based carrier signalled he would place a “large customer order” from both rivals Airbus and Boeing.
Qatar’s CEO made these comments at the FlightPlan III webinar this week, seen by Bloomberg.
Airbus’s freighter would be an A350F and Boeing’s would be a 777F, based on the US planemaker’s original 777 model.
Al Baker said last month he is “really hungry for more freighters”, but Boeing has said the 777F would not be available until 2023.
Recent disputes with Airbus have also surfaced, as Qatar’s A350’s paint has been degrading faster than usual.
He warned Airbus freighters would be in the running as long as the planemaker resolves the paint “issues very quickly”.
Upon being asked about a freighter version of the 777X (passenger model), for which Qatar was the launch customer, Al Baker said he is “very excited”.
“We will be giving them the opportunity, together with Airbus freighters,” he said.
Boeing has made remarks about offering a 777X freighter variant – 777F – following Qatar’s intent to buy 30 of them.
Al Baker said if Boeing were to confirm plans of the variant, the airline would be “at the front of the queue,” and would be “very happy” to be its launch customer.
The airline is ready to replace its ageing fleet of freighters with “the best freighter that is available”.
Airbus said last month it was actively looking into the possibility of developing a freighter, attempting to break into the Boeing-dominated cargo market.
The proposed A350-950F would fit between the A350-900 and the larger A350-1000 in size, reported by World of Aviation, when rumours surfaced.
The larger jet would allow the option of carrying more pallets, while still flying long distances.
While the pandemic has dampened the airline industry, the air cargo market remains in a strong position, leading aviation’s recovery.
Chief economist at IATA Brian Pearce said in May that airfreight services are in “good” market demand.
“Shippers and companies need air cargo to rapidly transport components and final products to market as the global economy recovers,” he said. “This has had a positive impact on the cargo tonne km (CTK) flow.”