“We are excited to be delivering the 30th Dreamliner to Qatar Airways. We have a very good relationship with Qatar Airways. Boeing’s relationship with Qatar is long standing.
“We are very proud of that relationship. And we are committed to supporting the airline… their growth… and their business,” Bentrott said in an interview with Gulf Times at the Inter-Continental Dublin recently.
Qatar Airways was the first airline in the Middle East to take delivery of the game-changing 787, for which it has placed 30 orders.
Asked whether the electrical system problems stemming from Boeing 787 Dreamliner's lithium-ion batteries, mainly during its first year of service, have been resolved, Bentrott said, “Battery issues have been completely resolved. Early on in the deliveries of the 787s, there were some reliability issues. That’s gotten behind us. The airplane is performing very well in service. We continue to hear very positive comments from a number of the CEOs who are here at the IATA meeting that the 787s in their fleets are performing well.”
Boeing Defense, Space & Security products have also made their mark; in 2010, Qatar’s national carrier’s colours were seen in a very different context when the Qatar Emiri Air Force used its Boeing C- 17 Globemaster IIIs to airlift several tonnes of much-needed humanitarian aid to Haiti and Chile in response to disastrous earthquakes in both countries.
Bentrott described Qatar and the GCC market as a “very terrific market” for Boeing.
“We believe the long-term prognosis is very strong. Our backlog in the Middle East region is strong. We have more than 500 airplanes in backlog that are going into the region,” the Seattle-based senior Boeing executive said.
According to the planemaker’s data, Qatar Airways currently has a fast-growing fleet of Boeing airplanes, with a backlog of about 70 aircraft that includes 60 777Xs. The Boeing 777 has been given the coveted “flagship” status in the Qatar Airways fleet.
In December 2010, Boeing solidified its relationship with Qatar when it established its first office in the country. Operations at the Boeing office in Doha include the Defense, Space & Security business, commercial airplanes business and other support services that have significantly enhanced the level and quality of service that the company provides to its customers in Qatar.
On whether the three big Gulf airlines – Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad, which operate large fleets of Boeing as well as Airbus aircraft would be forced to review their orders in view of regional economic slowdown caused by lower oil prices, Bentrott said, “I don’t think to a large degree. Qatar, Emirates, or Etihad have large fleets of aircraft currently existing. So, they make long-term decisions that are directed at replacing existing aircraft as well as some anticipated growth.”
“But if at any point in time…now… or two years from now… if they have excess capacity, we will sit with our customers and adjust things to accommodate their requirements. At this particular point in time, however, we have not seen any customers coming and asking for any near-term airplane deferrals.”
He pointed out that the fundamental driver for commercial aviation was economic growth.
“So, if there is a downturn in economic growth, whether that is global or local, there could be a negative impact on commercial aviation,” Bentrott said.
Although generally the demand is greater for single-aisle aircraft, Bentrott said, “in the Middle East uniquely demand remains higher in the market for twin-aisle larger airplanes than it does for single-aisle aircraft.”