Besides getting another three brand-new Boeing 777F deliveries, Qatar Airways had a couple more important notes in its operations. All in the space of a week.
Just after the year changed into 2021, Qatar Airways reached 30 Boeing 777F freighters in its fleet, by picking up three more. This consolidates its efforts at becoming the world’s largest international air freight carrier. FedEx beat them in overall fleet carrier numbers, but a lot of FedEx’s capacity is for US domestic operations.
Qatar Airways uses its freighters both for scheduled and chartered routes. Their arrival certainly is very timely, given current events. We have seen a lot of movement from both freight operators and conversion companies, because of the pandemic. Qatar obviously placed its orders well in advance of the pandemic.
The Qatar Airways delivery is also a landmark for the manufacturer. With these three jets, Boeing has now delivered 200 777F variants. With the imminent end to the production of the 747-8F, the 777F will be Boeing’s biggest, and by now best selling freighter. They are still offering the 767F, but its production is slowing. Plus, some of these latest 767s are actually KC-46 tankers.
Qatar Airways’ Airbus A350s
In the same week, Qatar Airways had a somewhat mixed luck with its Airbus A350 fleet. On the last day of 2020, the airline got its 53rd A350, thus becoming the largest operator of this aircraft. The aircraft is fast becoming a big seller for Airbus. The pandemic certainly dampened its deliveries – to put it mildly. But the Gulf states keep renewing their fleets in earnest.
However as we saw yesterday, Qatar Airways got an unpleasant surprise with another A350. They sent this aircraft to Ireland, so that it would receive a special 2024 World Cup paint scheme. It was the second of Qatar’s jets to receive this treatment. Unfortunately, the aircraft eventually had to go to Toulouse, France. The removal of its original paint revealed issues that Airbus wants to address there. Fortunately, initial stories about premature cracks, proved untrue.
The End Of A Headache
But by far the biggest story to affect Qatar Airways this week, is about WHERE it can fly its jets. Since June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt closed their borders and airspace to Qatar. The move had to do with political events and interrelationships in the Middle East. A look at the map shows that this affected Qatar’s air travel quite significantly.
On the 5th of January, Saudi Arabia announced that it will open its airspace and land borders to Qatar. It appears that Kuwait mediated and agreed a deal between the two countries. This ended a rather big headache to Qatar Airways. A good proportion of their operations were limited while the blockade was in place. More routes could happen, but with various levels of obstruction.
During the blockade, Qatar Airways could fly to Europe and further west, with corridors via Iraq and Turkey. But the effect of this blockade was severe, in the case of any routes to Africa. It also has a marked effect on any plans for flights to South America. On the same day that the blockade ended, Qatar announced increased flights to São Paolo. The blockade had added another 800 nautical miles, to what was already a 6,500 nm trip.