Qatar Airways buys Bombardier jets, but big deal still up in the air

Gulf carrier to sign on for executive planes, delay airliner purchase

FARNBOROUGH // Qatar Airways will spend US$122 million (Dh447.4m) on three new executive jets from Bombardier but will hold off on a widely expected order for passenger aircraft from the Canadian manufacturer. The Doha-based airline announced an order for two Global 5000 aircraft and a Challenger 605 yesterday at the Farnborough International Airshow.

But the airline said there were still concerns over Bombardier's C-Series aeroplanes, which have been the subject of discussions between the companies for nearly two years. The C-Series marks Bombardier's entry into the narrow-body commercial airliner market dominated by Airbus and Boeing, and an order from Qatar Airways would have given the programme a major boost. An order would also have increased pressure on Airbus and Boeing to re-engineer their current products to deliver the same fuel efficiency promised by the C-Series.

"We are still interested in that aircraft and we hope that our negotiations would come to fruition in the not-too-distant future. "We would have been happy to do something at the show, but unfortunately there are some issues that have to be solved," said Akbar al Baker, the chief executive of Qatar Airways. The plane, which will seat between 110 and 130 passengers and whose construction includes lightweight composite materials, could be used on flights of three hours or less, the Qatar chief said.

"This aircraft size is a perfect mix with airlines like us that have requirements for smaller aeroplanes with much lower operating costs," Mr al Baker said. He hinted, however, that the issues preventing him from purchasing the plane related to the engine, the Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan. Bombardier has orders for 90 of the C-Series aeroplanes, which sell for between $50m and $77m at list prices, as well as 90 options.

The company is developing the C-Series because it believes that over the next 20 years, the market for passenger jets with 100 to 149 seats will account for 6,000 aircraft worth more than $350 billion. It is a hotly contested market, with Airbus and Boeing considering either re-engineering or redesigning their current offerings, the A320 and the 737, respectively. New manufacturers are also springing up in China, Japan and Russia.

The three new jets will be used by Qatar Executive, a subsidiary of Qatar Airways. The jets would be used to fly premium customers from smaller airports to Doha, Mr al Baker said. * with agencies