Qatar drops A350-800 for larger -900

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Qatar Airways has shifted its order for 20 Airbus A350-800s to the larger -900 variant further weakening the backlog for the smallest member of the airframer's new widebody family.

Speaking at a Doha press conference after the arrival of the carrier's first Boeing 787 on 14 November, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker confirmed that it had ditched its A350-800s. Its order book for the type now comprises 60 -900s and 20 -1000s and it remains the launch customer for both variants.

For Airbus, however, this marks the second major blow to the -800 this week after Libyan carrier Afriqiyah Airways defected to the larger model.

Without the Qatar aircraft, the backlog for the -800, intended to be the second variant of the twinjet to be launched, stands at 92 firm orders.

At a briefing last month, A350 programme chief Didier Evrard indicated Airbus still had flexibility in its schedules to bring forward the entry-into-service date of the -1000 - currently due to appear in 2017, a year after the -800.

Al Baker reiterated his interest in the Boeing 787-10X, and hinted that Qatar Airways could look to become the launch customer for the double-stretched variant. It will receive a further four 787-8s this year, but has the flexibility in its portfolio of 60 orders and options to switch between 787 models.