Qatar Airways is confident that the Airbus A350-900 will be delivered on schedule later this year, but will not be able to assess whether it is meeting performance targets until it enters service.
The airline aims to introduce the new type into service before year-end, with the first long-haul destination to be New York.
“I’m extremely confident Airbus will deliver the A350 on schedule to Qatar Airways – I’m even a little over-optimistic that it will be earlier,” says chief executive Akbar Al Baker.
Senior Airbus personnel have expressed confidence that the A350-900 is on course to meet its range and fuel-burn targets, and will verify performance with the first production-standard “batch 2” aircraft (MSN5), which is due to join the test programme in May.
Al Baker recently met with senior Airbus executives at the A350 production line in Toulouse and was also paid a visit by the A350 in Doha while it was en route to the Singapore air show. He is guarded on the targets: “I cannot say anything about the performance until the aircraft is delivered,” he says. “On paper we have a lot of guarantees, but when we start flying it, we will have to see.”
Qatar Airways will put the A350 in to service immediately after delivery, “before the end of the year”, says Al Baker.
“As with all our new aircraft, it will initially be flown on intra-Gulf services for training purposes, before we put it on longer flights. Our first [long-haul] services will be from Doha to New York and subsequently European routes – perhaps London, Zurich or Frankfurt.”
The airline is yet to reveal details about the cabin configuration, beyond confirming that it will have a two-class (business/economy) layout. The interior arrangements will be unveiled by the time of the Farnborough air show in July, says Al Baker, where one of the test A350s (MSN4) will be displayed in a jointly branded Airbus/Qatar Airways scheme.