Qatar Airways plans to upgrade its Perth flights to the advanced Airbus A350, although there's a question mark hanging over when that switch from the current Boeing 777s will take place.
Speaking at a press event in Adelaide, Qatar Airways CEO His Excellency Akbar Al Baker could only confirm to Australian Business Traveller that the switch would happen “eventually, when (Qatar Airways) has enough A350s” in its fleet.
Qatar currently has eight A350s in the air, out of a whopping 72 on firm order – but the three newest jets remain grounded at Airbus HQ until the airline considers them up to scratch.
“Qatar Airways is very picky when it comes to quality,” Al Baker stressed, “and if we find that our aircraft are not meeting the build standards that Qatar Airways will accept, we will not accept the deliveries.”
The Oneworld member and de facto Qantas partner previously promised Perth would see A350 flights in "early 2015", having scuppered earlier plans to fly the Boeing 787 on the long Perth-Doha route.
A350 delays: knock-on effects for Auckland, Adelaide
Delays in A350 production have also caused a knock-on effect for the airline’s planned Auckland-Doha flights, previously slated for December 3 but now pushed back until February 2017.
While the airline will fly the long-range Boeing 777-200LR aircraft to Auckland, it needs the Airbus A350 to free up that Boeing 777 from another Qatar route in order to start the New Zealand service.
Adelaide will prove another victim of the A350 delays with flights temporarily reduced from daily to six-times-weekly from later this year “in order to cater for other destinations… as we have already launched them,” Al Baker explains.
Firm dates are yet to be decided, although the decrease in frequency will only occur for a 12-week period, after which full daily service will be restored.
Qatar Airways and the Airbus A350
Despite the Airbus A350 delays and the network issues they cause, Al Baker continues speaking highly of the next-gen jet for which Qatar Airways was the global launch customer.
“It has outstanding comfort and reliability,” he continues, starting from “when you enter the aircraft: normally you’d go through a galley, but on the A350s you really enter into a lounge space, and this space is converted into an activity area, so after take-off and seatbelts are off, passengers can gather here and socialise.”
The Airbus A350 also features a lower ‘cabin altitude’ to minimise fatigue on longer flights and carries the lowest engine noise level of any twin-engine aircraft to provide passengers with the best chance of a good night’s sleep.
Qatar Airways now flies the A350 to four continents – Australia, Asia, North America and Europe – with this week’s Adelaide-Doha launch marking Australia’s first scheduled A350 route.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Adelaide as a guest of Qatar Airways.
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