Qatar Airways, one of the fastest-growing airlines in the world, plans to buy a significant number of additional aircraft, chief executive Akbar Al Baker said at the show yesterday. An announcement will be made next year.

Al Baker was at Farnborough to take delivery of the second Qatar Airways A330-200. The airline already has orders, all with Airbus, which will raise its fleet from the current 16 aircraft to 30 by 2004 and to increase the number of destinations it serves from 35 to more than 60 in the same timeframe.

With Qatar Airways showing the kind of growth displayed by Arabian Gulf neighbour Emirates Airlines, Baker was asked if in the long-term the region could sustain two such ambitious airlines.

"We have already proved we can," he says. "We have been growing at 35% a year for the last three years. In the first three months of this year we have grown at 60% compared to last year. These figures confirm that there is a market for top-quality airlines.

"You know that we have plans to grow to a fleet of 30 aircraft within two years. The real figure will be much higher and I'm making an announcement next year." He says he could not reveal details at this stage as the exact numbers were the subject of a study. "But there will definitely be additional orders next year."

Qatar Airways operates an all-Airbus fleet though each order is based on thorough evaluation of all aircraft on the market, says Baker. "Like all airlines we always get into a competition when we buy aircraft. For our route network and our requirement, Airbus had the optimum product."

Source: Flight Daily News