The Doha-based carrier’s cargo fleet currently comprises six aircraft – three Boeing 777s and three Airbus A300s. With existing orders and the latest announcement, its cargo fleet will rise to 11 freighters over the next four years. Of the total, eight will be Boeing 777s freighters.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker announced the orders at a press conference during the Dubai Air Show.
Addressing local and international media, Al Baker said: “The Boeing 777 has quickly become our flagship long-haul aircraft and since we started taking delivery of this airplane in 2007, we have been able to open up exciting, new, diverse passenger and cargo routes worldwide from our Doha hub.
“With its payload and range capability, reliability and economics, the Boeing 777 has met our high expectations, operating to cities in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia Pacific non-stop from Doha.
“Since our recent announcement to acquire a stake in Europe’s largest cargo airline, Cargolux, Qatar Airways has been able to draw on the synergies between our two companies to operate a wider network of freighter services.”
Added Al Baker: “We currently operate over 20 dedicated freighter routes as far as Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Frankfurt and Amsterdam and we continue to explore more opportunities. The Boeing 777 continues to play a key role in our decision-making process for expansion with further cargo route announcements expected in due course.”
Qatar Airways currently operates 28 Boeing 777s – the three freighters and remainder passenger aircraft – a mix of Long Range (LR) and Extended Range (ER) variants.
Boeing Commercial President and CEO Jim Albaugh said: “Qatar Airways’ decision to invest in expanding its 777 Freighter fleet is an important endorsement for the aircraft from one of the world’s fastest growing airlines.
“Qatar Airways’ expansion strategy is clearly built on the principle of delivering cargo efficiently from one point to another and its choice of the 777 Freighter, with its unparalleled capabilities, reflects that.”
In November 2007, Qatar Airways took delivery of its first Boeing 777 – part of an order for 32 passenger and cargo triple sevens. Exercising options subsequently increased the order to 40 and, now 42 aircraft, following today’s news.
Qatar Airways, recently named Airline of the Year 2011 by global industry audit Skytrax, is one of the fastest growing airlines in the world, operating a modern fleet of 102 aircraft to 109 key business and leisure destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and South America.
The airline’s aggressive 2011 expansion programme has so far seen the launch of flights to 14 destinations – Bucharest (Romania), Budapest (Hungary), Brussels (Belgium), Stuttgart (Germany), Aleppo (Syria), Shiraz (Iran), Venice (Italy), Montreal (Canada), Medina (Saudi Arabia), Kolkata (India), Sofia (Bulgaria), Oslo (Norway), Benghazi (Libya) and Entebbe (Uganda).
The south western Chinese city of Chongqing becomes Qatar Airways’ final new route of 2011 – its fifth gateway in China from November 28. On February 1, Qatar Airways begins scheduled flights to Baku and Tbilisi, the capital cities of Azerbaijan and Georgia respectively.
By 2013, Qatar Airways plans to serve over 120 destinations worldwide with a fleet of more than 120 aircraft.
Qatar Airways has orders worth over US$ 40 billion for more than 200 aircraft, including Boeing 787s, 777s, Airbus A350s, A380s, A320 Family of aircraft and Bombardier corporate jets. The rapid expansion of Qatar Airways prompted the State of Qatar to embark on one of its biggest projects – the construction of a brand new international airport in Doha, which is scheduled to open in 2012.