QATAR Airways will be the first carrier in the Middle East to take delivery of Boeing’s new Dreamliner 787 aircraft, a Boeing executive said on Saturday.
“Qatar Airways awaits its first 787 next year and it will be the first 787 in the region,” said Marty Bentrott, Boeing’s vice president for commercial airplane sales for the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia.
Qatar Airways is due to take delivery of its first pair of Boeing 787 Dreamliners in February 2012, out of a total order book of 60 of the new aircraft. The Dreamliner has been plagued by delays and technical problems and last year Qatar Airways said it could cancel its Dreamliner order if there were further delays to deliveries.
Qatar Airways has orders worth over $40 billion for more than 200 aircraft, including Boeing 787s and 777s as well as Airbus A350s and A380s.
Bentrott also said that Boeing was talking to Oman Air and budget carrier flydubai as potential customers for its revamped 737 MAX jetliner. “We are talking to flydubai and Oman Air about the 737 MAX. We have had a lot of detailed discussions with flydubai, which is part of the normal process of getting a customer’s input into development,” Marty Bentrott told a news conference.
Boeing is fitting its best-selling 737 medium-haul jet with new engines to reduce fuel consumption and compete with a hot-selling version of the competing Airbus model called the A320neo. It is also showing off its new 787 Dreamliner for the first time at the biennial show after the fuel-saving carbon-fibre passenger jet went into service in Japan earlier this month. Boeing said Qatar Airways, whose chief executive Akbar Al Baker said a year ago the project had ‘failed’ due to a three-year production delay, would get its first 787 in mid-2012.
Oman Air could also clarify an order for 787 Dreamliners at the November 13-17 air show. The sultanate’s flag carrier last year signed a draft deal to acquire six 787s by leasing them through Kuwait’s Alafco but has been seeking compensation for the delays. “They may come out with something in the next few days,” Bentrott told Reuters, speaking of Oman’s interest in the 787.
Aviation International News reported that Oman Air was set to announce a 787 decision in Dubai. Demand from the Gulf has helped to power Boeing and Airbus production to record levels even as developed markets weather serious economic problems.
“It’s a critical market for us.
Most airlines have 35-40 percent in fuel-related operating costs, and lots of older aircraft need to be replaced when operating costs rise,” said Bentrott.
The air show is seen as likely to produce a slew of orders but will test the resilience of expanding Gulf carriers to Europe’s debt crisis and to slowing global economic growth.
“European banks have tended to be sources of funding for commercial aircraft, and we’ll have to see if the euro zone problems change that position. We’re looking at alternatives such as Islamic finance, Japanese financing and Exim bank,” said Bentrott.
He predicted that the airshow would be relatively muted.
Orders at the event fell steeply in 2009, coming in at $14 billion, compared with $155 billion in 2007. “We won’t see as big an order activity as we have seen historically,” he said.
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