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Qatar Airways signs deal with Boeing for 777X freighters, 737 Max planes

Boeing deal comes after Airbus said it cancelled Qatar Airways' order for 50 planes
Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways CEO, displays certificates following a signing ceremony with Boeing in Washington on 31 January 2022.
Akbar al-Baker, Qatar Airways CEO, displays certificates following a signing ceremony with Boeing in Washington on 31 January 2022 (AFP)

Qatar Airways has signed a massive order with Boeing for a new freighter version of its 777X passenger jet and a provisional order for 737 Max jets, in a Washington ceremony on Monday that coincides with a visit by the Gulf state's ruling emir.

The Gulf airline ordered 25 of the 737 Max 10 jets, the largest model in the Max family, with an option to purchase 25 more of the planes.

The carrier also lined up as Boeing’s first customer for a freighter version of its newest jetliner, the 777X, signing an order for 34 of the giant planes with an option to purchase 16 more.

Boeing expects the passenger 777X to enter into service in late 2023, about three years behind schedule. The value of the orders is potentially worth more than $30bn, according to Reuters.

"(The 777X) will be an absolute world-beater," Boeing chief executive Dave Calhoun said at an afternoon signing ceremony at the White House, which was attended by Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar al-Baker and US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

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The Boeing deal with Qatar Airways comes less than two weeks after Airbus said it had ended its contract with the airline for 50 A321neo planes, a rival to the Max jets.

"Today marks a great day in the ever-building and strong relationship between Qatar Airways and Boeing," Baker said in a statement.

For Boeing, the deal marks a respite from the ongoing impact of a safety crisis over the 737 Max and industrial and certification delays with the 777X passenger version and 787 Dreamliner - which remains sidelined by production flaws.

Boeing has dominated the air freight market for years through its 767, 777 and 747 cargo jets, though it will be urgently pressing for more orders for the new freighter flagship.

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About half of global cargo by value travels by air, and in turn, half of that usually goes in the belly of passenger planes.

During the pandemic, many airlines have been forced to park unused passenger jets, driving up demand for cargo space on dedicated freighters at a time when e-commerce has been a lifeline for many during Covid-19 lockdowns.

But economists warn the trends could start to unravel as the pandemic eases.

The amount of additional future revenue for Boeing from the deal would depend on discounts and how many of the freighters are converted from previous orders of 777X passenger versions. Airplanes typically sell for about half the list price.

Qatar is the second-largest customer for the world's largest twin-engined jetliner, with a total of 60 of the 406-seat 777X passenger version on order.

Industry sources estimate that could fall by around a third in the wake of design delays and a drop in near-term demand for long-haul passenger jets, suggesting the number of new airframes resulting from the freighter order could be closer to 15.

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