Qatar Airways will confirm the Memorandum of Understanding with Boeing for the 25 MAX 10s on firm order plus 25 options, CEO Akbar Al Baker told AirInsight in Doha on the sidelines of the IATA Annual General Meeting on June 21. Al Baker: “Qatar will confirm MoU for the Boeing MAX 10”.
When asked if the uncertainties around the certification of the MAX 10 and the potential requirements for a cockpit system redesign will hold up the confirmation of the MoU that Qatar announced in January, Al Baker said: “No. We will confirm the MoU, we will sign a firm order. (..) More aircraft have issues that needed to be solved.” He didn’t offer further details on when he expects to do this.
The confirmation by Al Baker seems to throw a previous scenario out of the window: that of Qatar using an MoU for the MAX 10 as a backstop, in case the airline would lose the court case with Airbus over the A350 paint quality issue and the termination of the order for fifty A321neo’s. Airbus terminated the order unilaterally in January, citing cross-default as Qatar was refusing to take delivery of new A350s that were already assembled. Only a week later, Al Baker signed the MoU for the MAX 10s when also placing an order for 34 777-8Fs, including firm orders and options.
Akbar Al Baker, surrounded by media after the closing press conference in Doha. (Richard Schuurman)
During a court hearing at the London High Court in April, when Qatar was seeking an injunction to reinstate the A321neo contract, the airline stated that it needed the neo’s urgently for its medium-haul operations. The court denied the injunction and said Qatar had other opportunities to source the required aircraft elsewhere. Asked if he was willing to wait another year until the full case will be presented and the High Court will rule on the A321neo order, Al Baker was unwilling to comment: “Let’s see, I have no wish to answer, especially as it is related to the court.”
Main topic during the IATA AGM
The legal feud between Airbus and Qatar Airways was one of the main topics for media questions during the IATA AGM in Doha. Al Akbar was consistently asked about his position and if there had been any direct discussions between him and Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury, who was in Doha on Sunday and Monday. Faury confirmed to AirInsight that there has been communication between the two parties, but didn’t say if that included a face-to-face meeting with Al Akbar.
When asked again during the closing press conference in Doha, Al Akbar said about his relations with Airbus and Faury: “On a personal level, I am a friend of everybody. But when it comes to an issue with my company, then it is a different story. If things were settled, we would not still be waiting for the trial to happen.”
IATA Director General Willie Walsh, who joked he had pictures of Al Baker and Faury, also commented on the spat between Qatar and Airbus, notably the unilateral termination of the A321neo contract. Earlier this year, he expressed concern that the OEM had been using its dominance. “Without question, Boeing and Airbus have failed to deliver aircraft on many occasions. We all experience that. There were many times in the past when airlines could have argued that was a default on the contract and would have canceled if they could have. It’s not just a worrying development for Qatar Airways, but it may also represent an opportunity for airline CEOs who had commitments for aircraft they may not wish to take and who may be looking to default on the part of the manufacturer and cancel the contract in the way that Airbus has done with Qatar.”
After that, Al Baker added: “No aircraft manufacturer with market dominance should be allowed to bully a long-standing customer.”
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News and until July 1 2023 in a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.