Al Baker fires off warning to Boeing about continuing 787 problems

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Qatar Airways is growing frustrated by the ongoing teething problems being suffered by its 787 fleet, warning Boeing that future orders could be in doubt unless remedies are quickly found.

The Doha-based airline has firm orders for 30 787s, of which six have been delivered, and holds 30 additional purchase rights. It aims to take all its 30 firm orders as 787-8s and is considering firming up the purchase rights as the larger -9 variant. But chief executive Akbar Al Baker says this will depend on how quickly Boeing can address the frustrations with its in-service fleet.

The outspoken CEO, who has previously been critical of problems with the airline’s 787s, says there are “still issues and Boeing is aware of that. And they need to resolve these issues very quickly because Qatar Airways is getting very frustrated with them.

“There are so many teething problems... although it is not anything major that would require us to ground our aircraft, it is enough to give us grief on our dispatch reliability,” says Al Baker.

Qatar Airways is considering whether to take up its 30 purchase rights as the stretch 787-9, but the ongoing 787-8 issues are playing into its -9 evaluation, which also includes the A350.

Qatar has 80 A350s on order, of which 42 are -900s and 38 -1000s. The airline is due to receive its first A350-900 by the end of 2014.

“We will either make a decision to take the -9, or take additional A350-1000s. And we have to decide soon,” Al Baker says. “They are different sizes, but we think that the seat-mile cost efficiency of the A350-1000 will do a better job.”

The decision about which aircraft to order will be driven by “how the problems are fixed and how we are convinced that we have confidence that the problems will be fixed. With the amount of problems they’re having with the 787-8, we don’t know if this will be translated into the -9.”

Al Baker says the airline still plans to take its 30 firm orders as 787-8s, but warns that “it all depends on how much pain we are prepared to sustain”.

Although an earlier proposal to place an order for interim A330s has cooled as A350-900 deliveries are “now so close”, Al Baker says that he may revisit that possibility if the 787 problems are not resolved: “If we have to move away from the -8 due to the issues we have, then we may look at interim A330s.”