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Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker said Wednesday that the airline was considering “loaning” planes to British Airways. Qatar owns a 21% stake in International Airlines Group (IAG), British Airways’s parent company, which also owns Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling. The move would alleviate some space concerns at the Middle East carrier’s headquarters in Doha, while resolving a temporary aircraft shortage for British Airways as some of its Boeing 787s undergo maintenance.
The UK airline’s aircraft shortage is partially due to a delay in inventory. Although British Airways has received 26 Boeing 787s out of an order for 42, all of the planes are powered by Rolls-Royce engines that have defective parts that are deteriorating more quickly than planned.
In response to the news, British Airways spokesperson Michele Knopf told TPG: “We are carrying out detailed precautionary inspections on some of our Boeing 787-9 [engines] to ensure we meet all the relevant regulatory requirements. To facilitate the additional engine inspections, … we have made some minor schedule adjustments, and will work to minimize any changes to our customers’ travel plans.”
This isn’t the first time Qatar’s fleet has helped British Airways out of a tight spot, but never before has Qatar shared its long-haul aircraft. Al-Baker said that, if necessary, Qatar might even go so far as to adjust its own schedules in order to accommodate the UK airline. “If we have to help them due to their current predicament we will do our best, even if it means reducing some frequencies from our current network,” al-Baker said, adding that, while Qatar doesn’t have spare aircraft, there might be destinations where route frequency is “excessive.”
Al-Baker further stated that Qatar Airlines would back IAG if the company decided to take over Norwegian Air. “Qatar Airways will always support IAG in anything they do,” he said. “Whatever they do to expand their business, it has been thought after well, and we will support them.” Yet Qatar does not sit on the board at IAG and “doesn’t interfere” in its affairs, he said, nor will the airline itself invest in Norwegian Air.
Qatar already has extensive overseas investments in foreign airlines, including newly renamed Air Italy, and the Middle East carrier continues to look outward, with considerations for a 25% stake in Moscow’s Vnukovo (VKO) airport, as well as interest in a potential carrier investment in India. Last month after being rejected by American Airlines, Qatar invested in regional carrier JetSuiteX.
Al-Baker was in Wales to celebrate Qatar’s inaugural flight into Cardiff, an “important milestone in the history of our airline.” While Qatar Airways flew its ultra-modern Airbus A350-900 to Wales for the inaugural flight, The Gulf Times reports that future routes to Cardiff will be serviced by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Following the Cardiff route launch, Qatar will next launch services to Belfast, Northern Ireland.
TPG reached out to Qatar Airways for more details regarding the potential aircraft loan, but has not received a response as of the time of this post. British Airways also declined to share financial details of the proposed loan.
Featured image courtesy of Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images.
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