BERLIN—Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker says the airline can walk away from an order for Pratt & Whitney PW1100G engines equipping its Airbus A320neo fleet as soon as next month.
“We are not waiting indefinitely,” Al Baker told Aviation Daily at the ITB Berlin tourism show. “We have already four aircraft sitting on the ground in Toulouse with no engines.” However, Al Baker indicated that even though Qatar can contractually dump the engine commitment, “we will give Pratt a certain time.”
The airline was to take delivery of its first A320neo at the end of last year, but deferred acceptance because of the startup issues still affecting the initial engines. Pratt is working on a fix that includes software and hardware updates and has said it will reduce the time between engine startup and taxiing substantially by year-end.
Al Baker explained that the airline is trying to make sure the issues are not inhibiting its growth plans. Qatar Airways has 34 A320neos and 16 A321neos on firm order.
But A320neo issues are not the only threat: Hamad International Airport in the Qatari capital of Doha already is operating at capacity, although that volume can still be stretched to 45 million passengers annually from the current level of more than 30 million. Al Baker, who also is also head of the airport, said he hopes a more substantial expansion project bringing capacity up to 70 million passengers will start by the year-end. Hamad opened at the end of May 2014 after a series of delays.
While Al Baker voiced concerns about the in-service reliability of the A350 fleet last fall, he now said the situation has improved since and he is “quite happy” with the dispatch reliability of the type.
Having just announced new service from Doha to Auckland —the world’s longest scheduled route—Al Baker sees potential for more ultra-long-haul flying (Aviation Daily, March 10). The carrier will start operating from Doha to Santiago, Chile, next year. Planning for extreme long-range flying has not been affected by fuel prices, he added.