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Qatar Airways studies 100-seater acquisition for regional network

Qatar Airways is evaluating new-generation 100-seaters as part of a strategy to develop high-frequency regional services within the Gulf, while in the longer term is awaiting moves from Airbus and Boeing before moving ahead with a replacement plan for its A320 family fleet.

The airline's chief executive Akbar Al Baker says that for the 100-seater requirement, several types are under evaluation. "There is the Embraer [E-Jet] family, as well as offerings from Bombardier and Mitsubishi," he says.

The Bombardier CSeries, which is moving towards a launch in 2008 following the airframer's selection of Pratt & Whitney's GTF geared turbofan to power the 110-seater, is set for a 2013 service entry that "suits us very well", says Al Baker. He adds that an order for up to 20 aircraft is envisaged - 10 firm, plus 10 options.

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways is engaged in a longer-term evaluation of developments from Airbus, Boeing and the engine suppliers to replace its fleet of 15 A320 family aircraft from the second half of the next decade. "The engine manufacturers are driving the next-generation narrowbodies," says Al Baker, who adds that a deal for at least 40 aircraft is envisaged (including 20 firm orders plus additional options).

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways is working with a local leasing company project, dubbed Oryx Leasing, which will be used as a vehicle for the phase-out of its existing fleet, beginning with its A330s and A340s. The airline operates 28 A330s (18 -200s and 10 -300s), as well as four A340-600s.

"We will replace aircraft when they are five or six years old to maintain a young fleet age," says Al Baker. "The A330s will start to flow out about 2013, when we are receiving the last of the [Boeing] 787s we have on order."

However, the retirement of the A340-600s is likely to occur earlier, following Qatar Airways decision to terminate the expansion of that fleet in favour of the 777-300ER. "We decided not to take up our six A340-600 options, in fact they have now lapsed," says Al Baker, adding that the A340-600s "will be one of the first aircraft we're going to lease out" once the 777 fleet has grown sufficiently.

The airline took delivery of its first of 14 777-300ERs on 29 November, and has orders for six 777-200LRs and seven 777Fs, deliveries of which will begin in 2008 and 2009 respectively. The new twinjets will be deployed on the airline's direct services from Doha to Washington DC from mid-January.

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