"We have a very strong compensation clause with a limited excusable delay beyond which Airbus will have to give me loads of money and the aircraft as a gift," said Akbar Al Baker (centre), with only a hint of pathos, speaking at his annual press conference at London's World Travel Market show yesterday about discussions between his airline and Airbus about A380 deliveries.
Over the past few weeks, all the customers of the Airbus A380 have been nagged by journalists over how much the manufacturer is giving airlines for delays to their deliveries. "As far as compensation is concerned we have a very rigid mechanism in our purchase agreement which I cannot disclose," said the head of Qatar Airways.
A press conference held by Al Baker is always an entertaining affair, and his appearance at WTM did not disappoint. Although his central message was to announce his carrier is getting back on its ambitious growth track with a whole load of new route launches next year, after just one (Hong Kong) this year, the hour-long discussion ranged over topics as diverse as the Airbus A380, the environment, passenger service, Australian routes, in-flight catering monopolies, female pilots, Live TV and financial results.
Among the highlights was the clearest indication yet about when Qatar will take its first of the Airbus superjumbos. The airline had already delayed its first delivery from 2007 to 2009 because of delays to the construction of the New Doha International Airport, said Al Baker. Already "disappointed" with a further delay, Qatar now knows it will receive its first A380 in late 2010 and the second in early 2011. Two options will follow a year later if exercised.