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Wed, Nov 16, 2011

Qatar Airways Pulls Airbus Deal, Then Signs It

Airline CEO Said European Planemaker Should 'Go Back To Basics' Before Relenting

The CEO of Qatar Airways unexpectedly pulled the plug, at least temporarily, on a $6.5 billion deal with Airbus, saying at the Dubai Air Show that the European planemaker is "still learning how to make airplanes." But later in the day, the two kissed and made up and signed the deal.

Akbar Al Baker had earlier signed a separate, smaller deal to purchase two Boeing 777 freighters. Al Baker said the airline had reached "an impasse" with Airbus, which cancelled a scheduled news conference in which it was expected to announce an agreement for the purchase of five A380s and 50 A320neo airplanes, according to a report in Reuters.

Airbus had hoped that the Qatar Airways announcement would generate a great deal of media buzz, but it instead turned the publicity somewhat negative, at least for a few hours. Al Baker told reporters he was not hopeful that a deal could be reached. "If this is resolved, fine ... If not, then bye-bye," he was quoted as saying.

But then, after some additional negotiations, the two rescheduled the media event and Al Baker signed the "firm" order for the A320neo aircraft as well as the A380s.

Al Bakar is reportedly frustrated with the pace at which Airbus is developing the A350XWB composite airplane. Qatar Airways will be the launch customer for the new wide-body airliner, and last week Airbus announced that the project would be delayed an additional six months. Bloomberg News reports that John Leahy, the head of Airbus Sales, said he would probably need to send his Middle East deputy to Doha to explain the A350-1000 to the airline. In the news conference Leahy said Airbus is not in the process of re-designing the largest variant of its A350 line.

Al Baker has been at times critical of both Boeing and Airbus. The airline exec called the 787 a "failure" in November of 2010, and delayed the delivery of the first Boeing 747-8 to Cargolux in a similar last-minute grandstand play last month.



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