The chief executive of Qatar Airways has told reporters on the sidelines of an aviation and duty free conference in Doha that the airline will delay retiring any more Boeing 777’s until the next-generation 777X aircraft arrives in 2021. Qatar Airways currently operates more than 70 Boeing 777-200’s and 777-300’s with an average age of just five and a half years – although some of its oldest 777’s are now approaching 12 years old.
“Our 777Xs are meant to replace our fleet. We want to keep growing but want to make sure we are not growing our emissions too. This is why we are investing in state of the art aircraft like 777Xs,” Akbar Al Baker said at the Trinity Forum event held in the St Regis Hotel, Doha yesterday.
Qatar Airways has ordered more than 100 of Boeing’s super-sized 777X aircraft at a list price of over $40 billion. The government-owned airline was want meant to be one of the launch customers for the latest iteration in Boeing’s 777 line with the first delivery expected early next year.
That timeline was based on Boeing managing to complete crucial test flights by the end of this year, although that won’t now be achieved after a cargo door blew off the static test aircraft during an extreme load experiment in front of FAA inspectors. Boeing now says it hopes to be in a position to start the first test flights in early 2020, although even that ambitious target might still be pushed further back.
“Boeing already said it will be late until 2021. I was expecting that it will be late, but not by that much,” Baker said of the 12-month delivery delay to the 777X programme.
Baker recently toured the 777X production line at Boeing’s Everett factory near Seattle where he said he was “tremendously proud” of the relationship between Qatar Airways and the aircraft manufacturer. Along with delays to the 777X programme, Qatar Airways has also been indirectly hit by the worldwide grounding of 737MAX aircraft through its minority equity partner Air Italy.
The 777X is set to become a crucial part of Qatar’s fleet in the years to come. Not only are they 12 per cent more fuel-efficient than comparable aircraft but they will also replace the airline’s fleet of extremely fuel-hungry Airbus A380’s which are set to be retired between 2024 and 2028.
Speaking of fuel efficiency, Baker told guests at the duty free conference that Qatar Airways had managed to save $10 million in fuel burn per year by making the decision to ditch onboard duty free sales. While Baker insisted in-flight duty free had been profitable, the airline could still make more money through fuel savings.
“We are making profit–but that is only half of the fuel burn on account of our making room for the duty free products. And when we have to put duty free items on an aircraft, we have to reduce passenger offerings – because the duty free is occupying the space of items that we need to enhance the experience of our passengers,” he explained.
A planned expansion of Hamad International Airport in Doha will include 11,720 square metres of food and retail space.