Qatar Airways plans to seek compensation from Boeing over the grounding of its 787s, even as the airline remains "optimistic" that the twinjet will be cleared to fly soon.
"I will not be honest if I say we will not take any compensation from Boeing. We will," says the carrier's chief executive Akbar Al Baker today at an event in Chicago marking the airline's inaugural flight to the city on 10 April.
"What will be the compensation? What will be the size, I rather not discuss this in public," he adds.
Qatar Airways' expansion plans have been "severely disrupted" by the 787 grounding, says Al Baker. "We had to reschedule several expansion plans, downgrade capacity into markets in order to keep the integrity of our network," he adds.
The carrier, for example, had planned to launch its Doha-Chicago route with daily flights initially but is operating thrice weekly because its 787s are grounded. Qatar Airways plans to increase flight frequency on the route to a daily flight from 15 June.
Despite the disruption caused by the 787 grounding, Al Baker says he is optimistic that the 787 will return to commercial service soon. "I'm always an optimistic person, I always see the bright side. I'm confident that the 787 will fly soon," he says. "They [Boeing] have resolved all the teething problems."
Boeing has already placed engineers in Doha and are "pre-positioning" 787 spare parts "so they can change all the required hardware to enable the aircraft to get into the sky again soon", says Al Baker.
Qatar Airways had five 787s in its fleet before the type was grounded, following a move by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ground the 787 on 16 January over issues relating to the aircraft's lithium-ion batteries. The Doha-based carrier has firm orders for 25 additional 787s and 30 options.
Boeing completed a final certification demonstration flight of the 787 with an improved battery design on 5 April and was expected to present data from its ground and flight tests to the FAA as the next step to get the twinjet back in commercial service.
Once the improved battery design is recertified by the FAA, Boeing will deploy it across the aircraft that had been delivered followed by aircraft awaiting delivery, before integrating the change into the 787 production line.