Qatar Airways will put the brakes on the delivery of new Airbus and Boeing jets until 2022 in the face of diminished travel demand and an ongoing cash crunch, with some jets – including the Boeing 777X – potentially pushed back as far as 2030.
Also for the axe are any Boeing 737 MAX aircraft for which Qatar has yet to be handed over the keys.
"We have already notified both Boeing and Airbus that we will not be taking any aeroplanes this year or next year," Qatar Airways Group CEO His Excellency Akbar Al Baker told Sky News UK.
"All the other aircraft we have on order that were supposed to be delivered to us within the next two or three years will now be pushed back to as long as nearly eight to ten years," he added, although Al Baker allowed that "as the business ramps up and the traffic increases, then we will bring forward those delayed aircraft deliveries."
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:
- 50 orders for the Airbus A321neo and A321neo LR, 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 new take on the Qsuite business class
- 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 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.
As for the Boeing 737 MAX, Al Baker said "we have already informed Boeing that we will have to replace them with some other type of aeroplanes... we will not require anymore of the 737 MAXs.”
Al Baker has already ruled out a rapid return for Qatar's ten Airbus A380s, saying the superbly-appointed superjumbo 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 remarked during a media briefing in May to discuss the airline's plans.
The Doha-based airline will downsize its 200-strong fleet by 25% during the drawn-out recovery period from the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, with the travel industry taking "around two to three years to get back to 2019 levels," Akbar Al Baker has previously forecast.
“I think I would be very surprised if things will happen before 2023/2024," Al Baker reflected.