Qatar Airways Delays World's Longest Flight Because of Plane Shortage
Qatar Airways continues to be afffected by delays in the deliveries of Airbus planes. Earlier this week, the Doha-based carrier said that it was reducing frequencies on at least a dozen of its busiest routes because it did not have enough planes to fly a full schedule.
Now, Qatar has announced that the launch of one of the year’s most-hyped new routes will be put on hold for at least two months. The airline’s flight from Doha to Auckland, New Zealand was scheduled to begin on Dec. 3. Now according to a spokesperson from the airline, the service won’t take off for the first time until early 2017. "I can confirm we are looking at February. It's due to aircraft availability, specifically the delay in delivery of A350s.”
The new Airbus A350 is one of the few planes that can make the 17.5 hour, 9,031-mile journey between the Gulf hub and New Zealand’s capital. The newest version of the 350 was designed by Airbus to compete with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the 777. There has been a lot of demand for these new models as airlines try to expand their number of long haul routes.
This is not the first issue that Qatar has had with Airbus. In December of 2015, the airline refused to take a delivery of 50 Airbus A320neos. The reason for this refusal was that there were problems with the neos’ Pratt & Whitney engines. The engine issues had to do with overheating, which Qatar claimed could prove to be a dangerous problem in Doha’s desert climate. Several months later, the engine issues have yet to be solved.
Qatar’s outspoken CEO, Akbar al-Baker, has warned that if the delays and problems continue, he will be placing an order with Airbus rival Boeing.
Qatar has been expanding its service aggressively as it seeks to get a bigger share of the Gulf market. However, the lack of planes is not its only issue. Demand from business travelers, especially those who are involved in the oil industry, has fallen recently. The Airbus issue could be, at least in part, an excuse to pump the breaks on this rapid expansion without actually admitting that it has grown too quickly.
Even if this is true, Airbus has some real issues to deal with if it wants to stay ahead of Boeing. The American manufacturer, which can offer the Dreamliner and 777 as alternatives to the A350 and the 737MAX as a stand-in for the neo, will be keen to sit down with Qatar and any other airlines that are dealing with delivery delays from Airbus.
For the time being, though, Qatar says that it still expects the A350s to be delivered, so it has yet to officially change manufacturers.
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