Qatar Airways is preparing to open business in Saudi Arabia as one of two operators that won in December licenses to serve the Kingdom’s domestic market.CEO Akbar Al-Baker said Qatar Airways will function under a different name, and begin operations with 10 narrow-body aircraft, with hubs in Riyadh and Jeddah.
Bahrain’s Gulf Air won the other licence.
Al-Baker said Qatar Airways is looking to order another 10 to 15 Airbus A330s before the Paris air show in June and might also confirm options on Boeing’s 787.
“We are talking to Airbus for extra A330s,” he told reporters in Dubai, saying he hoped to reach agreement over the midsize, wide-body aircraft before the air show which opens June 17.
But he said the European manufacturer will have to “sharpen their pencils,” adding that those planes would fill the gap caused by the delay in Boeing’s 787 Dreamliners.
The carrier already has 32 A330 planes, including three cargo versions.
Baker said “there is a possibility to order more” Airbus A380 superjumbos, for which it has firm orders for 10 units.
He also said that his fast growing carrier “will not cancel the Dreamliners” adding that Qatar Airways might order additional units.
“On the contrary, we may order additional Dreamliners because we have purchase rights for another 30,” he said.
“I wouldn’t be flying them if I weren’t happy,” he said when asked about the resumption of flights following the grounding of all 787s by the US manufacturer due to electrical problems.
Qatar Airways resumed operations on one of its five Dreamliners on May 1, he said.
Al-Baker also said Qatar Airways is pursuing discussions over a partnership with India’s IndiGo airline, short of buying a stake in the low-cost carrier.
“IndiGo is an airline not for sale. We only want to do partnership with them,” he said.“We want to do codeshare with them and we want to get into a situation where we work together, because they are the best airline in India,” he said.
“There are already approaches between the managements of the two airlines,” he added.He denied having talks with SpiceJet, another of India’s no-frills carriers.
Al-Baker said the delayed opening of Doha’s new airport will take place in the last quarter of this year, saying his carrier’s expansion is restrained by the limited capacity of the old airport.
“The delay is costing us heavily financially, because we cannot expand as we want,” he said.
Hamad International Airport was scheduled to enter service last month, but the opening was put off reportedly after the facility failed to meet security standards.