Qatar Airways has ordered 32 Airbus aircraft – including 14 options – in a deal worth an estimated $5 billion, it was announced at the show yesterday.
The deal is made up of two A321s, eight A330-200s, six A330-300s (plus options on a further six A330s), and two A340-600s (plus options on a further eight). In addition, the airline is to lease two Airbus A330-200s from GECAS.
Yesterday's announcement means that Qatar Airways will continue as an all-Airbus operator, while making it the first Middle East customer for the A330-300 as well as a new client for the A321 and A340-600.
Deliveries of the A321s and A330s begin in spring, 2004, while the A340-600s are due for delivery in summer, 2006.
"When you are a young and fast-growing airline in a competitive market, you need additional aircraft to help grow passenger numbers and expand your network," Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al-Baker said yesterday.
"We are also building on a long-standing partnership with Airbus and are looking forward to benefiting from the unrivalled commonality among its aircraft family."
Airbus chief executive Noel Forgeard said yesterday: "It is always impressive to see a service-orientated airline such as Qatar Airways succeeding in the marketplace, and always a great source of pride and satisfaction to know that Airbus aircraft are playing a part in that success."
The A340-600 version chosen by the airline has an additional payload/range flexibility via an increased 376 tonnes maximum takeoff weight (MTOW).
Yesterday's deal follows the announcement by Arabian Gulf competitor Emirates that it was ordering additional Airbus aircraft worth $12.5bn.
The Dubai airline also announced a purchase from Boeing for 777 aircraft making the total deal worth $19 billion.
Qatar split its engine choices for the new aircraft between three suppliers: GE Aircraft Engines' (GEAE) CF6-80E1 will power the A330s; Rolls-Royce's (R-R) Trent 500 will power the A340-600s; and International Aero Engines' (IAE) V2500 will power the A321s.
Qatar CEO Akbar Al-Baker also said yesterday that two options that the airline holds on Airbus A380 will be firmed up by the end of this month and that he is considering placing further orders of the ultra-large aircraft, both passenger and freighter variants.
"Our A380s will be ultra luxury liners," he promises, saying the carrier has many innovative ideas under consideration for unique onboard offerings.
Although Qatar had considered both the A340-600 and the rival ultra long-range Boeing 777, Bakar says the deal "was crystallised" just one week ago after the carrier's evaluations decided that the A340-600 "passed with flying colours".
"Today we operate an exclusive Airbus fleet and it will stay that way," says Al-Bakar.
"But at some point in the future there will be another competition. Competition is always healthy."