Qatar Airways could add 13 more destinations if aircraft deliveries pick up

Carrier could fly to 190 destinations, from 177 at present, chief executive says

Akbar Al Baker, chief executive of Qatar Airways, speaks at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai. Reuters
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Qatar Airways could increase its number of destinations to 190, from 177 currently, depending on aircraft deliveries from Boeing and Airbus, the airline’s chief executive said.

The Doha-based airline is experiencing a delay in the delivery of Boeing 787 and 777x aircraft, Akbar Al Baker said at the Arabian Travel Market on Monday.

“We were expecting a large number of 787-9s to be delivered to us this year … [but] the issues that unfortunately Boeing is having with the regulators … is delaying our deliveries,” said Mr Al Baker.

The US Federal Aviation Administration has increased its oversight of Boeing following two fatal 737 Max crashes in 2018 and 2019. Its latest challenge was a manufacturing issue on some of its 737 Max jets that threatened to delay deliveries.

In February, Boeing temporarily halted delivery of new 787 aircraft after the FAA raised concerns about a data-analysis issue. It resumed deliveries in March.

“Hopefully, the regulators will co-operate with the supply chain of Boeing in order for us to … get the aircraft,” said Mr Al Baker.

Qatar Airways expects to take delivery of A350s and A321neos from Airbus in the “distant future” after the two companies settled a dispute over A350 jets in February, Mr Al Baker said.

“We had an amicable settlement with Airbus and the aircraft deliveries that were cancelled have been reinstated.”

Qatar Airways, which owns stakes in airlines including Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific and British Airways' parent International Consolidated Airlines Group, does not have plans to invest in Air Serbia despite signing a codeshare deal with the carrier in January, he said.

“We have invested in airlines that have synergies with Qatar Airways in order for us to feed into each other [and] at the same time help the growth of both our airlines,” said Mr Al Baker.

The airline swung to an annual profit in the fiscal year 2021-2022 on the back of higher cargo volumes and surging passenger traffic, stemming losses that began in 2017 and worsened after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It posted a net profit of 5.6 billion Qatari rials ($1.5 billion), compared to a loss of 14 billion rials a year earlier.

The fiscal year 2022-2023 was “very good” for Qatar Airways, said Mr Al Baker, without providing further details.

Global passenger traffic rebounded to 15 per cent below its pre-pandemic levels in February, led by airlines in Asia-Pacific, which recorded the fastest growth, the International Air Transport Association said in its latest report.

Total passenger traffic worldwide increased 55.5 per cent on an annual basis in February, despite the uncertainties hanging over the global economy, Iata said.

Meanwhile, international passenger traffic jumped 89.7 per cent from February 2022 and reached 77.5 per cent of February 2019 levels.

Mr Al Baker said he was “excited” for the arrival of new Saudi airline Riyadh Air into the market.

“We will co-operate with them [and] we will support them because we feel that relationships matter,” he said.

“And, there's a lot of business to go around for everybody.”

Saudi Arabia announced the creation of the new national airline last month as the kingdom seeks to boost non-oil sectors under its economic diversification strategy.

The new carrier will be wholly owned by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, which has about $620 billion in assets under management and backs strategic sectors central to the kingdom's economic diversification plans.

Updated: May 01, 2023, 2:54 PM