DOHA (Reuters) - Qatar Airways, the launch customer for Airbus’s EAD.PA A350 plane, expects the European planemaker to start delivering the aircraft by the second half of next year, the airline’s chief executive said on Tuesday.
The Gulf carrier has ordered 80 A350 jets from Airbus.
“We are confident that Airbus will deliver the A350 by the second half of 2014,” Akbar al Baker said on the sidelines of an event to mark the airline joining the oneworld airline alliance.
His comments were in line with Airbus’s program chief Didier Evrard, who had said earlier that the aim was to deliver the lightweight aircraft in the second half of 2014.
The A350, designed to compete with Boeing’s (BA.N) 787 Dreamliner and the larger Boeing 777, staged its maiden flight in June. The European planemaker now has two aircraft flying and has notched up 75 flights and over 370 hours of flight tests.
By the end of the year, Airbus aims to freeze the design of the largest member of the A350 family, the 350-seat A350-1000. The aircraft is due to enter service in mid-2017, some three years ahead of a larger revamped version of Boeing’s 777.
On Tuesday, Qatar Airways joined oneworld, an alliance which includes British Airways, as the Gulf carrier looks to expand its global reach through partnerships.
Its rival, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways, has forged several codeshare agreements with Skyteam member Air France (AIRF.PA), while Emirates has agreed to co-operate with Australia’s Qantas.
Qatar Airway’s al-Baker said the airline would place another plane order during the Dubai Airshow next month, billed one of the largest industry events in the region.
“I won’t tell you what the order is, but there will be one,” he said.
Qatar Airways is among several major carriers being courted by Boeing (BA.N) as it finalizes plans for a larger version of its profitable 777 wide-body jet, which is expected to be launched at the Dubai Airshow.
But al-Baker said last week the airline was not interested in ordering the 777X wide-body jet.
“We don’t know anything about the airplane. We can’t just compare with the size of aircraft. We are just waiting for Boeing to offer us the aircraft and to show us what the aircraft is going to do,” he said.
Etihad is close to placing an order that could kick off a $50 billion jet-buying spree from the Gulf. It is expected to buy 25-30 of the 777X jets and place a repeat order for its 787 Dreamliner.
Al-Baker also said Qatar Airways was still interested in Bombardier Inc’s (BBDb.TO) C-Series jetliner.
“We are still interested in the C-Series but only when we see bigger orders to make sure it’s a sustainable program,” said al-Baker.
He added the carrier would not buy anymore Airbus A380 aircraft, adding it has 13 jets on order the first of which would be delivered in April.
Reporting by Praveen Menon and Amena Bakr; Ediding by Mark Potter