What to do when you want to expand international operations but your A350 fleet is mostly grounded because of paint issues and new 787s aren’t being delivered? For Qatar Airways the answer appears to be leaning on an equity partner for fleet augmentation.
The company loaded flights in its February 2022 schedule featuring a layout that matches the Cathay Pacific 777-300ER, suggesting it will lease some planes from the Hong Kong-based carrier.
Qatar Airways also owns just under 10% of Cathay Pacific, making this a smart use of its money as it is partially paying itself for the transaction.
This is not the first time Qatar Airways leaned on an equity partner for aircraft. In 2017 the carrier leased A350s from LATAM in which it also held an equity stake.
Based on the current filings the carrier does not expect to retrofit the cabins, or at least not change the seating layout. That means no QSuites business class on board, but it also adds a first class cabin for those so inclined.
And, perhaps most amusing, the Cathay planes feature a premium economy cabin. But, true to Group CEO Akbar Al Baker’s promise of not selling a premium economy offering to compete with the quality of the company’s economy product, the premium economy seats appear to be sold as regular economy fares. Getting the Premium Economy seats appears to carry a small “priority seat” upcharge on the flights.
The move also means Qatar Airways will now be operating flights with the Intelsat 2Ku hardware on board, though no guarantees it is activated. The current fleet carries the Inmarsat GX Aviation gear on board.
Initial routes loaded for the new aircraft include Doha to Male and Hong Kong. Service is slated to begin on 1 February 2022. The pair of planes show in the schedules for just one month right now; that could easily change as schedules extend.
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