The Qatari flag carrier, which was to be launch operator for the original A350 from 2011, has been involved in protracted negotiations about converting its deal to the XWB variant with deliveries beginning in mid-2013.
While Airbus confirms that it continues to talk to Qatar Airways about a revised order, industry sources say that one of the sticking points has been the airframer's unwillingness to provide interim aircraft within the required timescale to enable the airline to maintain its capacity growth during the period from the original planned delivery and the new schedule for the redesigned aircraft.
Qatar Airways originally selected the A350 in 2005 after an evaluation that included the 787, and is understood to have reactivated studies of the Boeing twinjet following the XWB revamp and later availability, with Boeing offering delivery slots earlier than the mid-2013 date set by Airbus for the A350's introduction.
As Qatar Airways was the original A350 launch customer, Airbus is contractually obliged to ensure that the airline retain its slot as the first customer for the redesigned aircraft should it complete its order negotiations and sign a purchase agreement for the A350 XWB.
While the fast-growing airline placed its first Boeing orders last year with a deal for 20 777-200LR/300ERs for delivery from late 2007, these aircraft only partially address its growth needs and not the longer-term capacity shortfall created by the A350 delay, which could be achieved by means of a deal for 787s.
Qatar Airways declines to comment on industry speculation about a 787 order, but confirms that detailed discussions with Airbus and Boeing continue about its capacity requirements from the start of the next decade.