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Rough landing: Qatar Airways CEO slams Airbus followed by an abrupt turn-around

Rough landing: Qatar Airways CEO slams Airbus followed by an abrupt turn-around

Indicating disappointment at Airbus, Qatar Airways CEO says the European planemaker was “still learning how to make airplanes.” Shortly after Qatar Airways placed a $6.5 billion order for Airbus jets.

November 15, 2011 1:30 by

Qatar Airways placed a $6.5 billion order for Airbus jets hours after telling the European giant to go back to basics and learn how to build airplanes in a day of high theatre at the Dubai Air Show.

Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker caused much controversy when he earlier on in the day said Airbus was “still learning how to make airplanes” in what observers at the air show read as a signal of further disappointment over delays and hesitation over the design of the future carbon-fibre A350.

Later on in the day, Baker made a second appearance to announce the firm order for five A380superjumbos and 50 A320neo jets hours, plus options, after announcing an “impasse” in negotiations. The earlier upset threw chaos into Airbus’s efforts to recover after being left standing at the Middle East’s largest air show when Boeing walked off with a record $18 billion order from Emirates on Sunday.

Now of course,  most of use wondering what is at the heart of this rather dramatic turnaround? Perhaps only time will tell, if this manoeuvre was nothing but a rather confusing negotiation tactic—for now we can’t help but marvel at the rather awkward position today’s dramatics put the chiefs at Airbus in.

Earlier on in the day, Al Baker said: “We have reached an impasse with them. We thought we would conclude an agreement and make a large announcement,” at a news conference at which the company unveiled a smaller separate deal to buy Boeing two 777 freighters.

Airbus presented the move as a postponement and cancelled media interviews as executives retreated to their air show base, but Al Baker said he was pessimistic about the chances of a deal.

“We have cancelled the announcement. There is an impasse. If this is resolved, fine … If not, then bye-bye,” he said.

The upset was the latest in a series of twists that have made Qatar’s influential order decisions one of the most keenly awaited parts of recent air shows.

Al Baker has overseen rapid expansion at the flag carrier but his 14-year tenure at the top of QatarAirways has been marked by outspoken comments against both Boeing and Airbus.

“It seems this deal is too hot to digest,” an embarrassed Airbus spokesman said in announcing the delay.
Airbus had been counting on an order surge on day three of the Middle East’s largest air show to hit back at Boeing, which so far dominates with a $18-billion order from host airline Emirates for 50 of its 777 aircraft.

Airbus did announce the sale of A320neos to lessor Aviation Capital Group for $2.7 billion on Tuesday.

ACG Chief Executive Stephen Hannahs said the Pacific Life unit had access to capital because it was investment grade, but that conditions in the market were tough.

“The bank market, and the European bank market in particular, which has been a large supporter of the aviation sector, is undergoing a lot of stress right now,” he said.

“I suspect for the next six months, you’re going to see banks in the euro zone sitting on the sidelines — they won’t be active participants until they sort out their capital structure. So there are going to be challenges.”

Airbus’s misery handed an unexpected morale boost to Canada’s Bombardier, which has been suffering headwinds in trying to market a new model for 110-130 seats.

It announced a provisional deal to sell 10 of the CS300 Series aircraft to Turkey’s Atlasjet Havacilik worth $776 million. (By Tim Hepher and Praveen Menon)

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