Akbar Al Baker, chief executive officer of Qatar Airways. (Getty)
Qatar Airways is talking to Boeing about being a launch customer for a successor to its mini-jumbo, the 406-seat 777-9X, Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said at the Paris Airshow on Monday.
The airline is also looking at exercising options for a further 30 787-9 Dreamliners on top of 30 787s already confirmed, he told reporters.
Boeing is working on plans to give its 777 long-range jet new wings and engines to respond to a challenge from Airbus’ carbon-composite A350-1000, due to enter service in 2017.
Asked whether the provisionally named 777X could be ready for Qatar to place orders by the Dubai Airshow in November, Al Baker said: “Yes, if we can iron out all our requirements and they can iron out all the performance specifications and enhancements of the plane, we would be interested by then.”
Despite its interest in the new model, Qatar Airways placed an order for nine more of the existing 777-3000ER model on Monday, including seven to be firmed up at a later date.
The new 777X is not expected to enter service before the end of this decade, meaning the airline needs to support its growth in the interim, Al Baker explained.
Boeing is expected to announce the official launch of a larger version of its 787 Dreamliner on Tuesday.
Al Baker said he was not looking at buying the 323-seat 787-10X because Qatar Airways had already ordered the Airbus A350-900, which was capable of doing what the airline wants.
He also said the airline was still looking at buying more of Airbus’ A330s, a 20-year-old model which has enjoyed a renaissance during delivery delays of the 787 Dreamliner.
Analysts say A330s are available at heavily discounted prices as Boeing prepares to introduce its similar-sized but lighter 787-10.
“Yes, we are still talking to Airbus about A330s, but it has to be at the right price,” he added. “With the introduction of the A350, that aircraft becomes a little vintage.”