Boeing rescues Qatar Airways 787 deal

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The threat that Qatar Airways will cancel its order for up to 60 787s has subsided after progress was made in its dispute with Boeing during a meeting in late July in Washington DC.

The Qatari flag carrier has an order comprising 30 firm and 30 options for General Electric GEnx-powered 787s, originally due from mid-2010 but postponed by around two and a half years to early 2013 as a result of the Dreamliner programme's successive delays.

jim larsen
 © Boeing
Qatar has withdrawn its threat to cancel its 787 order

During the Paris air show in June chief executive Akbar Al Baker warned Boeing that he would cancel the order if undisclosed "issues" were not quickly resolved. The airline had been seeking earlier deliveries - beginning in late 2011 - by taking over slots vacated by customers who had either deferred or cancelled orders.

Speaking in Washington DC in late July, Al Baker said that "a letter of termination" was averted when Boeing responded to his Paris warning by "taking a very proactive stand" and arranging the Washington meeting. Al Baker had told Boeing that if it could only offer 2012 deliveries it might cancel its entire order.

However, industry sources say that progress was made during the meeting, with the airframer agreeing in principle to Qatar Airways' terms, which should ensure that the order is retained. The airline has made it clear to Boeing that even though it wants earlier slots, it will not accept the early production aircraft as they are heavier and will have performance limitations.

Al Baker wants to ensure that his 787 delivery schedule begins before 2012 to avoid the risk of a clash with the arrival of its first of 80 Airbus A350 XWBs "if there is another big slippage". He adds: "If there's a huge overlap, then why am I buying two types of aircraft that are doing the same mission?"

Qatar Airways is launch customer for the A350, and is due to begin receiving its first twinjets during the last quarter of 2013 "if they are on time", says Al Baker. He adds that he suspects A350 deliveries could suffer a slippage of up to six months but feels "more confident Airbus will deliver on time as they're learning huge lessons from Boeing's mistakes".