Qatar disappointed at Airbus A350 delay
Qatar Airways, one of the key customers for the new Airbus long-haul A350 aircraft, said on Monday it was disappointed at a two-year delay which will hurt its expansion plans.
Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said that the delay for performance upgrades to the A350 was unwelcome and he was hoping to find out more about the changes from Airbus directly.
"It is disappointing to us," Baker said as he announced an order for six Boeing 777-300 long-haul planes at a ceremony with the Airbus' great US rival.
On Sunday, Airbus confirmed two-year delays on two versions of the A350 to take on suggestions from clients, including for one of the planes to be able to fly further.
The A350 XWB long-haul twin-jet is designed with mostly lightweight composite materials and is aimed directly at Boeing's 777 and 787 Dreamliner.
Asked about the delay, Baker said he could not comment directly on the changes to the A350 programme until he had a proper briefing from Airbus, with the plane effectively still on the drawing board.
"It is still a paper airplane. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and the 777 is already flying ... I do not like to talk (about it) ... at the moment until I'm properly briefed by Airbus," he said.
Airbus' chief operating officer Fabrice Bregier said on Sunday the company planned to equip the A350-1000 with more powerful Rolls Royce engines to extend the plane's range.
The company said it wanted to respond to demands from clients that would allow the A350-1000 to compete more directly with Boeing's 777-300ER.
Airbus' commercial director John Leahy, who is in contact with airlines, said: "If you ask for improvements, you should expect delays."
The delays will mainly affect Gulf customers who are the A350-1000's main clients. More than 570 A350s of all versions have already been ordered by 36 airlines.
The company said the delays to the 800 version were down to clients who had asked that the 900s be delivered first.
© 2011 AFP