Qatar Is Buying More Long-Range Jets as Diplomatic Blockade Wears on

Jan 31, 2019

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Qatar Airways is amending an order for 50 Airbus A321neo jets to swap in 10 of the long-range models as a diplomatic feud in the region, a so-called “blockade,” wears on.

The blockade began in June 2017 when neighboring countries Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed diplomatic relations with Qatar and essentially boycotted any involvement with the nation. Egypt also joined the bandwagon shortly after.

The boycott also means government-owned Qatar Airways has been barred from using any of the blockade nations’ airspace, meaning longer, more circuitous routes for the Doha-based carrier.

Enter the order for 10 A321LR aircraft.

Airbus’ A321LR planes are the larger version of its A320 narrow-body aircraft, a workhorse plane for airlines across the globe and Airbus’ best-selling jet to date. The long-range version can carry up to 206 passengers in a two-class configuration and has a range of up to 4,000 nautical miles, the longest range for a single-aisle plane. Design changes like extra fuel tanks and a higher maximum takeoff weight increase the plane’s range.

“Qatar Airways will use the A321LR to connect Doha to new growing markets where today demand is not sufficient for wide body aircraft or where current narrow bodies (A320/A321) are unable to reach,” the airline said in a statement on Thursday, noting the plane is “ideally suited to transatlantic routes.” The statement added that the new long-range jets would also be used for additional frequencies on existing routes.

The first of the A321LRs will be delivered to Qatar in 2020.

In addition to being restricted from the countries’ airspace, the airline lost about 18 destination cities to the blockade and attributed a $69 million loss in March 2018 to the diplomatic row.

Featured image by Qatar Airways.

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