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I’m back in good standing with Airbus! By 2023, the fleet of Qatar Airlines

Even though it is finally finished, Qatar Airlines’ legal dispute with Airbus has had a significant impact on its fleet over the previous two years.

Doha’s Hamad International Airport

The oneworld member runs widebodies and narrowbodies from both Airbus and Boeing out of its hub at Doha’s Hamad International Airport, and has a fleet of more than 200 aircraft. The Airbus A320 is the airline’s smallest jet, while the Airbus A380 superjumbo is its largest, illustrating how diverse the fleet’s size composition is at the moment. This in-depth analysis of Qatar Airlines will focus on all facets of the airline’s fleet, which have been considerably affected by a protracted but now-resolved dispute with Airbus. At a glance: the mainline passenger fleet

Although reports that Qatar Airlines now has a fleet of 236 aircraft, this number also includes 28 freighters that are used by Qatar Airways cargo: There are two Boeing 747-8Fs and 26 Boeing 777Fs. We will only focus on Qatar Airlines’ 208 passenger aircraft since this evaluation is exclusively focused on the airline’s passenger fleet. Following are the types and amounts:

29 A320-200s

5 A330-200s

7 A330-300s

34 A350-900s

19 A350-1000s

10 A380s

9 777-200

54 777-300ER\s30 787-8\s11 787-9

You can observe how diverse the passenger fleet of Qatar Airlines is with ten different aircraft variations across six kinds. It’s interesting to note that the airline’s former A321-200 aircraft are no longer in service; it appears that the final two of these stretched narrowbodies were retired between June and December 2022. Notably, the airline decommissioned its final two Airbus A319s in June 2020 and February 2021.


The consequences of the Airbus A350 paint scandal

As we had already mentioned at the opening to this article, the legal dispute between Qatar Airlines and Airbus regarding the A350’s surface degradation has had a significant effect on the airline’s present fleet composition. Notwithstanding the recent resolution of the dispute, the refusal of Qatar Airlines to accept brand-new A350 aircraft from Airbus over the course of over two years of litigation ultimately resulted in the cancellation of orders for both the A350 and A321neo aircraft. The airline has had to adjust in the interim, particularly given that many of its A350s have been grounded by Qatar’s civil aviation regulator. Airbus and Qatar have both confirmed to Easy Flying that these orders have been reinstated due to the court dispute being resolved. We stated in May 2019 that Qatar Airlines intended to retire its A320 and A330 aircraft. The A330 and A320 types were supposed to be phased out gradually until 2024 under the plan that was in place at the time. The A321neos were supposed to join the airline starting in 2019, according to an Airbus announcement from 2017, but that hasn’t happened.


The initial strategy really depended on the airline updating its fleet with A321neos, A350s, and 787s. The airline chose to reactivate its A330 fleet to retain its capacity, though, as a result of the grounding of many of its A350s. Given that the airline has only recently begun receiving new 787-9s, it’s likely that Boeing’s prolonged 787 delivery stop into 2021 and 2022 didn’t help the issue. The A330s are an average of 16 and a half years old, which has greatly increased the fleet age of the airline. Although this also includes the freighters operated by Qatar Airlines Cargo, the average age of the entire fleet is currently close to eight and a half years.

However, Qatar Airlines continues to fly a sizable fleet of A320-200 aircraft. The airline had hoped to retire these narrowbodies by this point and replace them with A321neos because of their average age of little over ten and a half years.


A380’s comeback

The A380 has also made a reappearance as a result of the airline’s decision to ground its A350s and its unwillingness to accept additional airframes of the same type. Ten superjumbos were delivered to the airline, although only seven are in use right now. Although the decision was applauded by A380 supporters and aviation enthusiasts, the airline’s CEO, Akbar al Baker, reaffirmed in 2022 that the quadjet’s reactivation isn’t a long-term solution:

“My only option was to recommission them at a hefty expense due to the grounding of the A350s by our regulator and me having a capacity limitation… I require the volume and the capacity; nevertheless, I will ground the A380s as soon as I begin receiving deliveries of my aircraft. The airline’s chief executive officer noted that only seven of the eight aircraft that were reactivated to fly are now transporting passengers.

We retain one spare because the supply chain makes it tough to procure spares for them nowadays. There is no longer a reason to produce spares because [Airbus] stopped producing them.

At the time of publishing, Qatar Airlines’ A380s were operating out of their hub in Doha, Qatar, and provided twice-daily service to London Heathrow as well as the Australian cities of Perth and Sydney.

other airlines’ aircraft

Boeing 777 300ER

Qatar Airlines had to find capacity by purchasing planes from further away in addition to reactivating its own storage jets. Four Boeing 777-300ERs that were formerly in service with Cathay Pacific as well as two additional 777-300ERs from Virgin Australia have been transferred to the carrier as a result. The two aircraft from Virgin Australia were just recently added; they will begin flying for Qatar Airlines in December 2022 and February 2023.

For anyone who are curious about the individual planes, they have the registrations A7-BOA, BOB, BOC, and BOD. Registered as A7-BOE and BOF, respectively, are the ex-Virgin Australia aircraft.

Qatar had secured Boeing 777s in addition to negotiating a wet lease agreement with Oman Air for three A330-300s. Under this contract, Oman Air supplied the A330s, as well as crew, maintenance, and insurance. These aircraft primarily fly between Doha and Tunis, Dhaka, and Colombo in Bangladesh (Tunisia). Yet, data from reveals that the aircraft have also been used in locations including Cairo and Beirut in Lebanon (Egypt).

Boeing versus Airbus? both, perhaps? Future fleet of Qatar Airlines

The whole order for the A321neo and any outstanding A350 orders were canceled by the European aircraft manufacturer at the height of the conflict between Airbus and Qatar Airlines. Qatar Airlines placed a sizeable order with Boeing in response in January 2022. In addition to signing a Memorandum of Understanding for up to 50 737-10s, the airline committed to purchasing 50 777-8 freighters. Then, in July at the Farnborough Airshow, Qatar Airlines finalized its order for 25 MAX aircraft, with options for an additional 25 of the model.

Akbar al Baker said the following regarding the MAX order in January 2022:

“Qatar Airways very much looks forward to adding the 737-10 to its fleet. This new variant of the 737 is ideally suited to 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 agreed to reinstate the orders. A backlog of 50 Airbus A321neos and 23 Airbus A350s will be added back to the order book as a result.

“Airbus and Qatar Airlines are happy to have settled their legal dispute concerning A350 surface degradation and the grounding of A350 aircraft amicably and to their mutual satisfaction. Both sides are eager to have these aircraft back in the air safely now that a repair project is under way.” What Qatar Airlines will do with its purchase for a Boeing 737 MAX 10 is the big question now that the A321neo agreement is back on the table. After all, the size of the two types of aircraft is comparable (although they have their own different operational strengths). No announcements have been made to the general public as of yet. Nonetheless, the following possibilities are possible:

The airline can maintain its MAX 10 order, resulting in a more diverse fleet (and complexity)

It might entirely revoke this order and refund any fines incurred.

Finally, it might substitute the order with several models of the MAX, 787s, 777-8Fs, or 777-9s from Boeing.

Given that a recently seen ex-S7 Boeing 737 MAX 8 was partially wrapped in the livery of Qatar Airways, it’s possible that the airline has already chosen the final course of action. The MAX 8, with the registration N5573K, was spotted at Portland International Airport with winglets and a rudder that displayed Qatari flag patterns and colors, as first reported by Aerotime. Just be on the lookout for any announcements or modifications to the orderbook in the near future!

perpetual youth

Having a fleet with a young average age has always been something Qatar Airlines has been proud of. Its website now claims that it has “one of the youngest airline fleets in the world, with an average aircraft age of roughly five years.” While this number is now a little dated, we are aware that the airline will always place a high focus on having a young fleet. In May 2021, as part of our Future Flying webinar series, Simple Flying had the chance to interview Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airlines Group. The airline president said the following regarding sustainability and carbon emissions:

“The fleet of Qatar Airlines is extremely youthful; we don’t allow it to age more than ten years on average. No other airline, to my knowledge, does that. We’re devoted to doing just that. And if Airbus or Boeing [introduces a newer] generation plane tomorrow, we’ll quickly agree to buy it to replace our present 787s and A350s. So that we can continue to reduce our carbon emissions and engine emissions, we will continually invest in the next generation.” In light of this, we can anticipate that Qatar Airlines will operate largely brand-new aircraft. While its disagreement with Airbus may have prevented it from achieving this objective, the fact that the “paint issue” has been resolved should allow new Airbus deliveries to resume, with new Boeing aircraft following in a few years.

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