Qatar Airways is confident it will be able to launch services with its new fleet of Boeing 787-8s in mid-2012, and hopes to have five in service by the end of the year. Meanwhile the Doha-based airline expects to introduce the first of 10 517-seat Airbus A380s in 2013, to coincide with the first year of operation of the city's new international airport.

In a video interview with Flightglobal at the opening of Qatar Airways new premium lounge at London Heathrow's Terminal 4, the airline's chief executive Akbar Al Baker outlined his near-term fleet development plans, which centre on the introduction of the two new types over the next two years.

"Production has already started and we hope to receive our first 787 in June. We will take a total of five in the current year," he said, adding that Qatar plans to display the aircraft at this year's Farnborough air show in July.

Al Baker said the Dreamliners will be configured with around 240 seats, including 22 in business and "nearly 220" in economy. "We'll unveil the two seats at the ITB Berlin [travel trade exhibition] - both were specially built for Qatar Airways."

Qatar Airways will initially deploy its 787s on intra-Gulf routes to build up operational experience and then start longer flights to Europe. "Our first [European] flight will be to Heathrow," said Al Baker.

Qatar Airways currently operates a mix of Airbus A330s, A340-600s and Boeing 777-300ERs on its Doha-Heathrow route. It is about to add a fifth daily frequency.

Meanwhile the airline's first A380 is due to arrive in the second half of next year, said Al Baker, and will be the only aircraft in Qatar's fleet equipped with a first class cabin. "It will also have 42 business-class seats out of a total of 517 seats," he said.

Al Baker said that the final decision on the A380's route network has not been made. "It will be operating to routes that have slot restrictions where we need larger capacity due to the constraints on the number of flights we can operate," he added.

Source: Flight International