Qatar Airways orders Boeing planes in $1.7B deal

June 20, 2011 - 6:56 AM
France Air Show

Boeing Vice President Patrick Shanahan, left, talks to U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, as they walk next to a Boeing 747-8 at the Paris Air Show, Le Bourget, east of Paris, Sunday, June 19, 2011. The Paris Air Show will open tomorrow on June 20 at Le Bourget. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

LE BOURGET, France (AP) — Boeing Co. announced the first big-ticket order in its rivalry with Airbus at the start of the Paris Air Show on Monday, saying Qatar Airways has ordered six 777 jets in a $1.7 billion deal.

The upstart, fast-growing Gulf carrier is buying extended versions of the long-range jet, the 777-300, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker said during a news conference alongside Boeing's commercial aircraft chief.

The order was the first major purchase announced at the air show, the aviation industry's premier event.

Boeing has now delivered 25 777s to the Qatari flag carrier, and expects to deliver another 15, making the double-aisle plane "the backbone of our long-range aircraft," al-Baker said.

Separately, Al-Baker said he hopes to finalize this week an order with Airbus on the A320 neo, about which the European plane-making consortium hopes to announce an array of orders at the air show.

Airbus has booked more than 330 orders and commitments for the aircraft — a revamped A320 version that has been re-engineered to be 15 percent more fuel efficient — since its commercial launch in December.

"We are interested in that airplane, but we still have some more work to do," al-Baker said. "It's a very fine airplane."

Boeing has faced pressure to come up with its response to the A320 neo. Jim Albaugh, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said the company will not rush into a decision — expected in the coming months. Boeing is considering whether to re-engine the current 737s, or develop an entirely new plane.

"Now, I know the one that many of you probably came to hear an announcement on today, and are going to be disappointed, is what we are going to do with the small airplanes," said Albaugh. "We have a very deliberate process in determining what we are going to do."

"Our view is that the neo will just provide an airplane as capable as the current (737)NG," he said, referring to the "next generation" variant of the single-aisle 737.