Long-standing rumours that Qatar Airways intends to split its widebody expansion between the Airbus A350 XWB and Boeing 787 were confirmed at the last week's roll-out ceremony in Everett, when the airline's motif appeared among the customer logos that adorned the twinjet's fuselage.

Flight International understands the Qatari flag carrier's 787 deal comprises a firm order for 30 787s for delivery from mid-2010, with options for a further 30. The whole deal has an estimated value of around $10 billion.

Sources say that the order, which is mainly for 787-8s but also includes -9s, was placed in April and has been held on the US airframer's books as an undisclosed customer (Flight International 1-7 May). The General Electric GEnx is understood to have been selected over the rival Rolls-Royce Trent 1000.

The revelation, which last week still had not been confirmed by the airline, comes less than a month after Qatar Airways signed a firm deal for 80 Airbus A350 XWBs at the Paris air show, following two years of negotiations.

Qatar Airways' decision to split its widebody expansion programme between Airbus and Boeing comes after long-running negotiations with Airbus about its launch deal for the A350 - a commitment first announced at Paris two years ago for the original version of the twinjet (then powered by GEnx engines) which the airline was due to receive from mid-2010 as the first operator.

Although Qatar has retained its status as launch operator under the new A350 deal - which this time has R-R Trent XWB engines as the GE option is not available - the first XWB will not arrive until mid-2013.

Sources say that the slip resulted in a capacity void that threatened the airline's growth plans and with Airbus apparently unwilling to provide a bridging aircraft package that complied with Qatar Airways' needs, Boeing was able to assist with a batch of early 787 delivery slots.

Qatar Airways currently operates an all-Airbus fleet of around 60 aircraft including A320 family aircraft, A330s and A340-600s. However the airline last year signed a major order for 20 Boeing 777-200LR/300ERs and two 777Fs, the first of which is due to for delivery before year-end.

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Source: Flight International