QATAR Airways Ltd is considering whether to order additional Boeing 747 jumbo freighters as its air cargo division is flourishing and the Persian Gulf carrier is unexpectedly benefitting from a blockade of its home country.
The jets would help the Doha-based carrier realise its ambition to become the largest international cargo operator in the world, chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker told reporters during a visit to Seattle to take delivery of the first of Qatar Air's two B747-8 freighters, reported Bloomberg.
With air freight emerging from a lengthy slump, the airline's worldwide loads rose 11 per cent this year through July, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The flight embargo imposed in June by neighbouring nations to penalise Qatar actually has provided a benefit, Mr Al Baker said. Airfreight deliveries have climbed 160 per cent from a year ago as Qatar Air has airlifted more fresh food, medical equipment and other supplies.
"The blockade has quite the opposite impact on our business to the one intended," Mr Al Baker was quoted as saying. "Our adversaries thought they would bring us to our knees and we would capitulate, but this didn't happen."
He dismissed any suggestion that Qatar Air might delay aircraft orders because of the blockade or slowing travel growth in the Middle East. "We are not studying any deferrals because Qatar Airways' aircraft orders are not all growth airplanes," Mr Al Baker said. "They are also fleet replacement."
The carrier plans to take all 110 of the Boeing 777X planes that it has committed to buy from Boeing through orders or options. In addition, it expanded a previous order for 44 of Boeing's 777-300ER by four aircraft. Combined with the two jumbos, the aircraft are worth US$2.16 billion at list prices.
Furthermore, Qatar Air has decided to take all of the Airbus SE A350 aircraft it has on order, reversing an earlier plan to cancel four deliveries, Mr Al Baker added.