Boeing is solely to blame for Qatar Airways’ curtailed expansion plans in 2013, the airline’s CEO has said.
Akbar Al Baker made his comments at a press conference on Wednesday to announce the resumption of Qatar Airways’ Boeing Dreamliner 787 flights after three months of being grounded due to battery problems.
“Our big issue is with Boeing. We have told them that the delays in the 787 and the grounding have really impacted Qatar Airways’ expansion severely. We now have to claw back the new destinations that we have to launch.
“It is impacting my bottom line because we are expanding. We are planning 15 new routes this year and now I will have to settle for only ten. I’m very unhappy.”
The always outspoken CEO said he was preparing to receiving compensation from Boeing – along with all affected Boeing 787 customers.
Qatar Airways’ entire fleet of five 787s was grounded on January 16 after two related lithium battery breakdowns occurred within two weeks of each other in Japan and the USA.
A global decision was made to ground the craft and all 50 planes were taken out of the skies.
Boeing has since been working around the clock to come up with a viable battery solution approved by the US regulators, which is now being instilled in all of the models before flights can resume service.
Ethiopian Airlines become the first airline to resume Boeing 787 flight service last week.
Qatar Airways, which was the first airline in the Middle East to receive the 787s, has 30 of the aircraft on order and additional 30 on option.
“There is a delay in us getting the additional five aircraft, this delay has happened due to the delay in the re-certification.
“We were supposed to receive one aircraft in March, one aircraft in April, one in June, one in July and one in September. Now that this delay has happened we will start receiving our airplanes from June,” said Al Baker.
However despite the setbacks with the Boeing 787s, the CEO has not pulled out on his future orders with Boeing
“If Boeing can give me the additional Boeing 787s in the timeframe I want, yes, we would like to take the additional 30. But those additional 30 would be the re-certified version of the aircraft.”
The CEO stressed that the newly revamped Boeing 787 was so safe, “I will fly with you on the craft, today and any time”.
“People have confidence in Boeing and we have confidence in Boeing, we wouldn’t be flying the aeroplane if it was not safe. We will never put our passengers in an unsafe aircraft. It has been tested time and time again and it has thousands of hours of tests and therefore the aircraft has been re-certified.”
Al Baker insisted that all five of Qatar Airways’ Boeing 787s will be in the air by the end of May. The Heathrow route will operate from May 20, the Munich route from May 22 and the Frankfurt route will be resumed from May 26.
“There will not be another problem, and even if there is, the battery will simply be replaced. The containment of the issue has already been certified and studied,” said Al Baker.
However, the CEO was adamant that the aircraft shouldn’t have been grounded in the first place.
“I think there was a reaction by the regulators because of the unnecessary emergency evacuation of the Japanese aircraft and unfortunately people today are more sensitive to what the social media say rather than what should really be the facts.”
The CEO added that the Dreamliner delays would not affect Qatar Airways’ imminent integration into the One World global airline alliance programme.
“We will be integrated into the One World system by the early part of October this year , we are well advanced in integrating our processes and our systems.”
Qatar Airways is only the second Middle East airline to join the prestigious worldwide programme, following Jordanian Airlines.
Al Baker also took the opportunity to chastise Bechtel, principal contractor for the new Hamad International Airport in Doha, for the project’s delays.
“Bechtel is hugely responsible for the delay and I’m sticking to my statement that Bechtel has a very big part in delaying our airport, there is no question about this,” he said.
The glitzy project was finally due to open on April 1 but was prevented from doing so because the project did not meet new building codes set by Qatar’s civil defense.
“The airport is finalising all the shortcomings that were raised by the civil defense but we are not in a position to give any new opening dates. “