Qatar Airways “hungry” for more freighters

By Damian Brett

Qatar Airways is “hungry for more freighters” as it considers its options for future orders of all-cargo aircraft.

Speaking at the Qatar Economic Forum hosted by Bloomberg, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said that for the last two years, excluding FedEx and UPS, the airline had been the largest freight carrier in the world and growth had accelerated during the pandemic.

Al Baker said the carrier would like to order more freighters but there is a wait for slots at Boeing. He said that the airline would also like to be the launch customer for either the proposed B777X freighter or the A350 freighter.

“We are really hungry for more freighters,” Al Baker said. “Unfortunately David [David Calhoun, president and chief executive of The Boeing Company] cannot produce for us more B777F, the earliest he can give me is in 2023.”

He added: “We are very keen to be a launch customer, be it for the A350F or the B777X freighters. At Qatar Airways, we will concentrate on airfreight as an important part of our total strategy, of course, but first we are an airline to carry passengers.”

According Qatar Airways website, all 26 of the B777 freighters it has ordered from Boeing have now been delivered — the first of which arrived in 2010. It also operates two B747-8Fs.

Al Bakar’s desire to order cargo aircraft and potentially be a launch customer for a new freighter model shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.

In a June interview with Reuters,Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said that the company was considering an order for 30 or more freighters from Airbus or Boeing as part of a fleet renewal programme.

One of the aircraft under discussion was a B777X Freighter, he said. The fleet replacement programme would take place over several years, he explained.

He also discussed the possibility of being the launch customer for the B777X at the 2019 Paris Airshow.

While Boeing has yet to confirm plans for a B777X freighter, it has discussed the possibility in the past.

“A freighter version is being considered using the -8X airframe and may be available 18-24 months after the -8X enters service,” it said in a 2015 company presentation.

Boeing is developing two passenger versions of its 777X – the 777-8 and 777-9. The 777X has new GE Aviation GE9X engines and new wings made of carbonfibre, making it lighter and therefore delivering 10% lower fuel use and emissions and 10% lower operating costs “than the competition”. 

It was initially hoped that the first deliveries of the B777X-9 would have taken place by now, but are now expected in 2023.

Meanwhile, Airbus is also considering a new production freighter model. Reports suggest that the airframer has been canvassing airline opinion on the potential for a widebody freighter version of the aircraft, which would be a little longer than the A350-900.

Airbus will need commitments from around 50 airlines before it can launch a programme, Reuters said.

In 2007, Air Cargo News sister title FlightGlobal reported that Airbus was considering a A350-900F, which would have a similar payload and volume to the 90 tonne MD-11F and a range of 9,250km (5,000nm). 

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