Regaining good relations with Airbus! The Fleet of Qatar Airlines in 2023
While being resolved recently, Qatar Airlines’ conflict with Airbus has had a significant impact on its fleet during the past two years.
Qatar Airlines runs widebodies and narrowbodies from both Airbus and Boeing out of its hub at Doha’s Hamad International Airport. The oneworld member’s fleet of over 200 aircraft is highly diverse.
The Airbus A320, the airline’s smallest plane, and the A380 superjumbo, its largest, show how different the fleet’s sizes are at the moment. The airline’s current and future fleet have been profoundly shaped by a protracted but now-resolved dispute with Airbus; all of these issues will be covered in this in-depth analysis of Qatar Airlines. A quick look of the mainline passenger fleet
While Planepotters.net reports that there are currently 236 aircraft in the Qatar Airways fleet, this number also includes 28 freighters that are used for cargo flights: two Boeing 747-8Fs and 26 Boeing 777Fs. We will only focus on the 208 passenger aircraft now operating for Qatar Airlines because this investigation is exclusively focused on the airline’s passenger fleet. The following are the types and quantities:
54 777-300ER\s30 787-8\s11 787-9
You can see how diversified Qatar Airlines’ passenger fleet is by looking at the ten different aircraft variations it has across six types. It’s interesting to note that the airline no longer has any A321-200s in its inventory; it seems the final two of these stretched narrowbodies were retired between June and December 2022.
The airline retired its final two Airbus A319s in June 2020 and February 2021, which is also important to note.
Effects of the Airbus A350 paint controversy
The legal dispute between Qatar Airlines and Airbus over the A350’s surface degradation, as was already mentioned in the opening of this article, has had a significant impact on the airline’s present fleet composition. Although the dispute was recently resolved, it took two years of litigation for Qatar Airways to refuse to accept new A350 aircraft from Airbus, which ultimately resulted in the cancellation of orders for both unfulfilled A350 and A321neo aircraft.
Despite the fact that many of its A350s have been grounded by Qatar’s civil aviation regulator, Airbus and Qatar have both acknowledged to Simple Flying that these orders have been reinstated as a result of the court case being resolved. We noted that Qatar Airlines intended to retire its A320 and A330 fleet in May 2019.
The A330 and A320 models would have been gradually phased out through 2024 according to the plan in place at the time. Airbus announced in 2017 that the A321neos would join the airline starting in 2019, however this has not yet happened.
In fact, the airline’s original strategy depended on updating its fleet with A321neos, A350s, and 787s. Nonetheless, the airline made the decision to restart its A330 fleet in order to maintain its capacity as a result of the grounding of many of its A350s.
Given that the airline has only recently started receiving brand-new 787-9s, Boeing’s prolonged 787 delivery hold throughout 2021 and 2022 probably didn’t help the situation. Given that the A330s are an average of 16 and a half years old, all of this has greatly increased the age of the airline’s fleet.
Although this also includes the Qatar Airways Cargo freighters, the average fleet age at the time of publication is close to eight and a half years.
Yet, Qatar Airlines is still flying a sizable fleet of A320-200 aircraft. The airline had hoped to replace these narrowbodies, which had an average age of little over ten and a half years, by A321neos by now.
Bringing back the A380
The A350 has returned after the airline grounded its A350s and refused to take additional airframes of the same kind. Although the airline received a total of 10 superjumbos, only seven of them are in use right now. the airline’s CEO, Akbar al Baker, repeated in 2022 that the quadjet’s reactivation isn’t a long-term answer despite the move being applauded by aviation enthusiasts and A380 fans:
“With the A350s being grounded by our regulator and me having a capacity crunch, my only option was to recommission them at a hefty expense… I require the volume and the capacity, but we will ground the A380s as soon as I begin receiving deliveries of my planes and we have the capacity. Only seven of the eight aircraft that were reactivated to fly, according to the airline’s chief, are really transporting people.
We retain one spare because today, you have problems finding spares for them due of the supply chain. When [Airbus] stopped making them, there is no longer a need for spares.
At the time of publishing, Qatar Airlines’ A380s operated twice-daily flights to London Heathrow as well as the Australian cities of Perth and Sydney out of its hub in Doha.
airplanes from different carriers
Qatar Airlines has had to find capacity by purchasing aircraft from farther away in addition to reactivating its own storage aircraft. As a result, the airline has acquired two more Boeing 777-300ERs from Virgin Australia in addition to four Boeing 777-300ERs that were formerly owned by Cathay Pacific. The two Virgin Australia aircraft, which will begin serving Qatar Airlines in December 2022 and February 2023, are relatively new acquisitions.
The former Cathay 777s have the registrations A7-BOA, BOB, BOC, and BOD for those who are interested in the exact aircraft. The former Virgin Australia jets had the registration numbers A7-BOE and BOF.
In addition to acquiring Boeing 777s, Qatar has also worked with Oman Air to establish a wet lease agreement for three A330-300s. Oman Air supplied the A330s for this arrangement, together with crew, maintenance, and insurance. These aircraft primarily fly between Doha and Colombo (Sri Lanka), Dhaka (Bangladesh), and Tunis (Tunisia). Yet according to data from FlightRadar24.com, the jets have also been sent to places like Cairo and Beirut in Lebanon (Egypt).
Boeing or Airbus? the two? Future aircraft for Qatar Airlines
The European aircraft manufacturer canceled all of the A321neo order as well as any remaining A350 orders at the height of the spat between Airbus and Qatar Airlines. In reaction, Qatar Airlines made a sizeable order with Boeing in January 2022. The airline signed a Memorandum of Understanding for up to 50 737-10s in addition to its commitment to 50 777-8 freighters. A few months later, in July at the Farnborough Airshow, Qatar Airways finalized their MAX purchase, agreeing to 25 of the type with options for an additional 25.
In response to the MAX order, Akbar al Baker said in January 2022:
“Qatar Airways very much looks forward to adding the 737-10 to its fleet. This new variant of the 737 is ideal for our short-haul network, giving us the chance to further enhance our product offering for our customers, modernize our fleet, and operate the most efficient aircraft in its category,” the airline said. Naturally, Qatar Airlines and Airbus have resolved their legal dispute, and both have declared that the orders would be resumed. This will see a backlog of 50 A321neos and 23 Airbus A350s re-added to the order book.
“The legal dispute between Qatar Airlines and Airbus concerning A350 surface degradation and the grounding of A350 aircraft has been resolved amicably and to both parties’ satisfaction. Both sides are eager to return these aircraft to the air safely when a repair process has begun.”
The main question is what Qatar Airlines will do with its Boeing 737 MAX 10 purchase now that the A321neo agreement is back on the table. After all, the two types of aircraft are comparable in size (although they have their own different operational strengths). Public announcements have not yet been made. Nonetheless, the following events could occur:
The airline is able to maintain its MAX 10 order, increasing fleet variety (and complexity)
It may entirely revoke this order and pay any associated fines.
Also, it might exchange the order for different MAX models, 787s, 777-8Fs, or 777-9s, among other Boeing goods.
Given that an ex-S7 Boeing 737 MAX 8 was recently photographed with partial Qatar Airways livery, it’s possible that the airline has already chosen the final course of action. The N5573K MAX 8 with Qatari-themed winglets and a rudder was spotted at Portland International Airport, as first reported by Aerotime. So keep a look out for any announcements or orderbook modifications coming up soon!
Operating a fleet with a young average age has always been a point of pride for Qatar Airlines. As of right now, according to its website, it has “one of the youngest airline fleets in the world, with an average aircraft age of just five years.”
Even though this number is already somewhat outdated, we are aware that the airline will always place a premium on having a young fleet. As part of our Future Flying webinar series in May 2021, Simple Flying had the chance to interview Qatar Airlines Group CEO Akbar Al Baker. The head of the airline said the following regarding sustainability and carbon output:
“The fleet of Qatar Airways is relatively new; we don’t allow it become older than 10 years on average. There may not be another airline that offers that service. And we’re determined to keep doing that. We will immediately sign for it to replace our current 787s and A350s if Airbus or Boeing introduces a newer generation aircraft tomorrow.
Hence, we will continue to make investments for the next generation so that we can continue to reduce our carbon emissions and engine emissions.” As a result, we may anticipate Qatar Airlines operating largely brand-new aircraft. This objective may have been hampered by its dispute with Airbus, but now that the “paint crisis” has been resolved, new Airbus deliveries should resume, with new Boeing aircraft following in a few years.