Cyprus Mail

Qatar Airways could grow to 255 routes depending on aircraft deliveries

qatar airways

Qatar Airways could expand its number of destinations to more than 255 from 170 currently under plans for rapid growth, but its ability to do so depends on the delivery of additional aircraft, the Gulf carrier’s chief executive said on Monday.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker told reporters at a press conference during the Arabian Travel Market conference in Dubai that the airline had plans to expand to 190 routes, but added that still more destinations were possible.

“We could add maybe 85 or 90 destinations depending on the aircraft deliveries,” Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker told reporters.

The airline expects planemakers Boeing (BA.N) and Airbus (AIR.PA) to begin delivering soon, he said. Previously he said delivery delays had prompted the airline to make conservative growth plans.

Airbus in March reinstated an order for 73 aircraft from Qatar Airways which it had revoked during a major legal dispute over damage to the surface of grounded A350s.

The airline and planemaker settled the dispute in February, and Al Baker expects to begin receiving the aircraft in the “not too distant future”.

Qatar Airways is also experiencing delayed delivery of Boeing 787 and 777X planes, Al Baker added. He said the 787 delays had been caused by “unnecessary” concerns raised by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Boeing in February temporarily halted delivery of new 787 aircraft to conduct additional analysis of a fuselage component amid the FAA’s concerns.

Al Baker said he looked forward to cooperating with Riyadh Air, Saudi Arabia’s newly announced national airline, which aims to compete head-to-head with regional carriers like Qatar Airways.

“There is a lot of business around for everybody… We will cooperate with them and support them,” he said. He later told reporters that Qatar Airways could pursue codeshares or exchanges of technical assistance with the new airline.

High energy prices have not dented passenger demand for travel at Qatar Airways, where load factors, a measure of capacity utilisation, are in the “high 80s” Al Baker told reporters.

The airline spent $2.4 billion more than it had budgeted on fuel in 2022, he said. It had taken steps to shield customers from higher energy prices, but warned that it is “not an unlimited cushion”.

Al Baker said the carrier was “fighting with oil companies” to scale up the production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in order to bring the price down to affordable levels.

The airline aims to adopt the fuel, which has the potential to reduce its carbon footprint, or to use it in combination with conventional fuel.

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