Qatar Airways to announce A380 order at Paris air show

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Qatar Airways plans to increase its orders for the Airbus A380 at next month's Paris air show, and should also finally conclude a deal for the freighter conversion of its A330 passenger fleet.

The airline currently holds orders for five A380s, with the first delivery scheduled for 2013.

CEO Akbar Al Baker said he plans to sign "a small order" for additional A380s, with the size still to be finalised but "it won't be a hundred aircraft".

Qatar Airways originally placed its order for the Airbus double-decker in 2001 but deliveries have been progressively pushed back - both at the airline's request and because of production problems. Engine selection is still outstanding, although Al Baker said he expects to choose between Engine Alliance and Rolls-Royce by early next year.

The airline also looks set to resolve its long-running row with Airbus over the conversion of its 29 A330-200s and -300s to freighters. Its A330-200s are due to be replaced from 2012 by Boeing 787s, and Al Baker has been pushing Airbus to launch a "P2F" cargo conversion programme. Although the airframer has been looking to launch a -300P2F conversion, it has been reticent about including the -200 at this stage, claiming insufficient "feedstock" of aircraft to justify a launch.

However, sources familiar with the situation indicated it has also been concerned that the availability of an A330-200P2F could further dampen demand for the already slow-selling new-build -200F. Al Baker said he expects to make an announcement with Airbus at Paris about an A330P2F deal.

Once converted, Qatar Airways intends to transfer the A330Fs to its leasing arm. Some of these aircraft are earmarked for operation by its own cargo division, while others will be offered for lease to third parties.

Al Baker said one recipient could be Luxembourg-based Cargolux, with which Qatar Airways will "hopefully" conclude a deal for a 35% stake in early June.