Qatar Airways has upgauged an order for 50 Airbus A320neos to bigger, long-range A321neos it says will support continuing network development.
The Gulf carrier said the updated order, which replaces one made in 2011 and is worth $US6.35 billion at list prices, reflected the airline’s need for efficiency and additional capacity.
Qatar’s original order included the troubled Pratt & Whitney PW1100G engine but the airline backed away when the geared turbofans developed problems. Its latest announcment did not specify an engine type but there is speculation it has switched to the CFM International Leap-1A.
The order comes amid continuing tensions between Qatar and its Arab neighbors and was among a number of deals during a visit by French president Emmanuel Macron to the Gulf state to reinforce ties between the countries.
The A321neo ACFs (Airbus Cabin Flex) Qatar has ordered can fly up to 240 passengers and includes door and fuselage changes to make better use of cabin space. This includes changed emergency exits, a new rear galley configuration as well as new toilets. A provision for more underfloor fuel capacity boosts the single-aisle jet’s range to 4000 nautical miles.
The A321neo has experienced a surge in popularity among airlines because of its range, efficiency and capacity. Airbus officials say the proportion of production given over to A321s has increased from 15 percent to 40 percent over the past decade as customers opt for the best cost per seat.
Qatar’s planes will start entering the carrier’s fleet in 2019 and will offer fuel savings of 15 to 20 percent.
“At a time when Qatar Airways is experiencing unprecedented growth and expansion, the need for efficient, reliable and modern aircraft has never been greater,’’ Qatar chief executive Akbar Al Baker said in the announcment. “To answer our need for growth and additional capacity, the A321neo ACF is a world-class choice for our passengers and for our business.”
Qatar has continued to add destinations to its international network despite an airspace embargo announced by nearby states in June.
The UN-backed International Civil Aviation Organisation has continued to work to get Qatar improved access and in August announced a new route over international waters controlled by Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
The 20-year-old airline currently serves more than 150 destinations and new ports to be added this year and next include St. Petersburg, Russia; Canberra, Australia; and Cardiff, UK.
The A320neo family has received more than 5200 orders from 95 customers since the program was launched in 2010.