Qatar Airways has canceled orders for four A350s worth $1.2 billion (SR4.5 billion) because of delivery delays, European planemaker said Airbus said. Qatar Airways is the biggest buyer of the A350, with 80 orders before the cancelations, as well as the launch customer having taken its first plane in December 2014.
The cancellation comes amid an air blockade imposed against Qatar after a diplomatic breakdown with its Gulf neighbors and a dip in regional demand for air travel. Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker earlier said that any delays in the delivery of planes were the aircraft maker’s responsibility. “We are asking Airbus to deliver it faster,” he told a Dublin news conference. “The delay is from Airbus.”
The Doha-based carrier is the biggest buyer of the A350, with 80 orders before the cancellations, as well as the launch customer having taken its first plane in December 2014. Qatar Airways’ contract with Airbus on the A350 aircraft includes a clause allowing it to scrap handovers that are delayed beyond a certain point, which means the planemaker now has to look for other buyers and refit the aircraft interiors at a cost of up to $60 million (SR224 million).
Al Baker has a reputation for being demanding when reviewing aircraft for quality defects before delivery, and has previously turned down deliveries of A380, A320neo and earlier A350 planes. He refused to accept four A320neos last year over claims of performance issues with the aircraft’s engines, made by Pratt & Whitney, saying they required additional time to start under certain conditions. The airline has renegotiated an order with Airbus to take delivery only of larger A321 planes, but was still deciding whether to switch the engine order for the narrow-body jets from Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies, to CFM, a joint venture between General Electric and Safran of France.