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Qatar Airways' Boeing jets
Qatar Airways has put in orders for 40 wide-body Boeing jets and is voicing its intent to order up to 60 737 MAX jets. (Credit: Boeing)

Qatar Airways today sent a strong message to the Boeing Co. – and to Airbus, its European rival – by putting in an order for 40 wide-body Boeing jets and leaving the door open for up to 60 more 737 MAX jets.

The orders for 30 of Boeing’s 787-9 Dreamliners and 10 of the 777-300ERs would be valued at $11.7 billion at list price, Boeing said. The 60 single-aisle 737 MAX jets, covered by a letter of intent, would go for $6.9 billion at list price.

That adds up to $18.6 billion retail, but The Seattle Times’ Dominic Gates cites an estimate from Avitas, an aircraft valuation firm, that sets the value at $8.8 billion after standard industry discounts.

The order provides a huge boost for Boeing’s 777 and 787 programs, and for the company’s operations in Everett, Wash., where the planes are assembled. Qatar Airways currently flies 54 of the 777s and 30 of the 787s, with six 777F freighters and 60 of the next-generation 777X passenger jets on order.

24/7 Wall St.’s Paul Ausick sees the prospect of 737 MAX sales as the more interesting bit of news. Qatar Airways doesn’t have any 737s in its current fleet – but it has previously put in orders for Airbus’ A320neo jets, which are seen as the 737 MAX’s rival.

 

Qatar Airways ended up canceling delivery of the first three A320neos due to performance problems with the jets’ Pratt & Whitney engines. The airline’s CEO, Akbar Al Baker, has voiced dissatisfaction with that twist as well as Airbus’ delayed deliveries of A350 jets.

“Our relationship is very strained,” Bloomberg News quoted Al Baker as saying in August. “What’s happening at Airbus with the deliveries is seriously affecting our growth.”

In contrast, Al Baker praised Boeing as “a valuable partner” in today’s announcement of the new orders, which he said were “a testament to our appreciation of the quality of their product and their dedication to providing world-class customer service.”

“That has got to be satisfying to Boeing officials,” Ausick said.

Today’s announcement came just days after the U.S. government informally signaled its approval for the multibillion-dollar sale of Boeing-made F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jets to the Persian Gulf nation, despite concerns voiced by Israel. Al Baker said there was no connection between the two deals, but it’d be hard to imagine Boeing’s commercial jet sales going through if the military sales fell through.

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