Qatar to delay new Airbus, Boeing deliveries "until at least 2022"

Right-sizing Qatar's fleet will also mean curtailing the arrival of new aircraft, among them Boeing's 777X flagship.

By David Flynn, June 3 2020
Qatar to delay new Airbus, Boeing deliveries

Qatar Airways plans to suspend the delivery of new jets from Airbus and Boeing until post-coronavirus travel demand returns to normal – a state which its CEO doesn't expect to see until at least 2022.

The decision will impact the arrival of anywhere from 160 to over 200 aircraft, based on the Gulf carrier's unfulfilled orders and 'letters of intent' placed for the following:

  • the Airbus A321neo and A321neo LR (50 orders in all), which were also to have debuted a flat-bed business class seat
  • over a dozen Airbus A350-1000 jets sporting the airline's flagship Qsuite business class
  • 23 Boeing 787-9s (seven have been delivered but are yet to begin commercial flights), said to be fitted with an evolved 'Qsuite 2.0' business class suite
  • as many as 110 of Boeing's next-generation 777X, beginning with 10 of the 777-9 plus 50 orders and 50 options on the longer-range 777-8
  • up to 60 of the problem-plagued Boeing 737 MAX 8 (as a letter of intent, not an inked order)

The head of Qatar Airways called on the world’s two major planemakers to ease demands that ailing carriers accept delivery of new aircraft, saying future relationships are at stake.

Airbus and Boeing should allow the deferral of handovers until at least 2022, CEO His Excellency Akbar Al Baker told Bloomberg TV on Tuesday. Qatar Airways has about US$50 billion of orders outstanding, based on list prices.

“What is important is for Boeing and Airbus to show their customers that they are not only there with them in good times, but also in bad,” he said. “If they don’t oblige, they will permanently lose us as a customer.”

Al Baker’s comments highlight the financial pressure on airlines, especially Gulf carriers like Qatar Airways whose business shuttling travellers across the globe has been shrivelled by the coronavirus.

The CEO said he didn’t know when passengers would begin flying again in significant numbers, and  the travel industry will take "around two to three years to get back to 2019 levels... I think I would be very surprised if things will happen before 2023/2024."

Al Baker said customers returning to the skies should prepare to wear masks, gloves and even face shields on Qatar Airways flights. But he said leaving empty rows between passengers isn’t an option as it would boost ticket prices by at least 100% and be “an absolute disaster for aviation.”

The Gulf carrier has traditionally been an ardent purchaser of new aircraft – if also a very demanding customer, with an eye for detail – as it steadily expanded its network.

"Up to now, we are getting around on an average 35-36 airplanes a year," airline CEO His Excellency Akbar Al Baker told Executive Traveller in October 2019, at the announcement of plans to build the world's largest airport lounge at Doha's expanded Hamad International Airport.

"Next year (2020) we are earmarked to get over 40 aircraft. This will be the highest 12-month aircraft delivery to Qatar Airways."

The coronavirus pandemic has of course put a crimp in that schedule and Qatar Airways' broader ambitions, and it will now reduce its fleet by 25% during the drawn-out recovery period.

As previously reported, the airline's ten Airbus A380s will remain grounded until the second half of 2021 and may never return to the skies. "Qatar Airways is parking its 10 A380s and they will not return for at least a year, and maybe never," Al Baker said during a media briefing to discuss the airline's plans.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg News


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1209

With all of these deferrals from so many airlines with more to come no doubt, Airbus and Boeing are both going to need government assistance. They can't afford to keep building planes that no one wants to take delivery of but equally each of them support a huge chunk of economic activity so idling the businesses is not really an option either.


16 Nov 2011

Total posts 595

They don't need to idle, they just need to reduce output.

08 May 2020

Total posts 84

With just about all Airlines in the same Boat, the big question will be how long Boing and Airbus can hold out as being in hibernation with practically no sale. That is on top of Boings problem with their Bread and Butter Model 737 maxi and stiff competition on the 787 with the Airbus 350 fighting the same market. Airbus obviously will have some ground to make up with the early retirement of the 380 manufacture.. as suppose it will be anybody's guess when we even get to 60-70 % activity to prior Covid -19. If it is 2023 it may spell disaster.

07 Jan 2014

Total posts 42

The new 787s are 787-9s, not -10s.

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 105

With all these deferrals and cancellations to come, Qantas should consider pushing for a deal from Airbus on it a350-1000s. It may be able to pick them up for a song or be able to return a couple of the a380s with some bonus for the trade in.

Qantas did well to pick up the 737-800s in the early 2000s from the cancelled American airlines order, and I could see a similar situation here were it can get its new aircraft for a massive discount.


16 Nov 2011

Total posts 595

Difference of course is Qantas is in the same boat as everyone else, which is no need for new planes and reduced fiscal capacity to buy. Even to the extent they have deferred 3 789 deliveries themselves, which I find interesting as I would have thought with early 747 retirement and parked up A380's that they would have come in handy as a way of building routes again.

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1245

“What is important is for Boeing and Airbus to show their customers that they are not only there with them in good times, but also in bad,” he said. “If they don't oblige, they will permanently lose us as a customer.”

A hollow threat. What other aircraft manufacturer can Qatar turn to for their long-haul fleet renewal?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Jun 2014

Total posts 210

Agree - totally rediculous.

20 Oct 2017

Total posts 3

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2016

Total posts 58

Agree. Ignore their request. So in periods of high demand for aircraft do Boeing or Airbus adjust their price upwards on pre-commitments! Why should it work only in Qatar's favour ...... I guess the oil money is running low and they can no longer afford to pump endless money into an airline. Their model is broken and other airlines will follow Qantas in using smaller aircraft to do non stop flights to many more destinations. Your hub has broken a spoke and in a few years time Qatar and the other middle east airlines will be redundant. They would have had surplus aircraft regardless of COVID.


16 Nov 2011

Total posts 595

Think that is more wishful thinking than what is going to happen. The vast majority of the destinations the ME3 service already are well within the range of existing aircraft including lower capacity planes.

The only difference ultra long haul will make is for flights from far far away places like Australia to Europe, but even then the number of viable city pairs would be small. I think you could count the viable pairs on one hand.

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Qatar to delay new Airbus, Boeing deliveries "until at least 2022"