He said what? It’s all up in the air in Qatar

By Tim Raetzloff | Dec 23, 2010

The headline in the Chicago Sun-Times says, “Qatar Air Sticks by Boeing 787.”

The headline in the Everett Herald says, “Qatar Airways sticks with Boeing 787 despite delays.”

The headline at KING-5 says, “Qatar Airways sticks by Boeing 787 despite delays.”  This all sounds positive.

Apparently the outburst from Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker three weeks ago is a thing of the past and now all is well between Boeing and Qatar Airways.

But the headline at MENAFN (Middle East North Africa Financial Network).com says, “Qatar Airways threatens to scrap Boeing 787 order.” And the headline at Arabian Business.com says, “Qatar Airways may cancel Dreamliner order, says CEO.”

The Middle Eastern media seems to have heard a totally different story from Al-Baker.

In late November Akbar Al-Baker was widely quoted saying, “Boeing’s 787 program has very clearly failed. When you put a company in the hands of accountants you will always get garbage out.”

The significance of those angry words is that Qatar Airways has ordered 30 787s and seemed to be looking for a way to cancel.

On Dec. 18, where Qatar was opening a new arrival terminal at Doha International Airport, Al-Baker spoke to the assembled media. It seems that at least some of the U.S. media reported a much more glass-half-full than the Middle Eastern media.

I have not found a verbatim record of what Al-Baker said, but piecing together the various reports it appears he said he would not cancel the 787 order at this time, but if Boeing is unable to deliver by the end of 2011 – as contractually required – he would find it necessary to cancel the order.

I will try not to put words into Mr. Al-Baker’s mouth, but it sounds to me the attorneys for Qatar Airways have gotten to him since late November and told him he simply can not go around calling the Boeing 787 “garbage” without consequences from one of only two companies in the world that can supply him with airplanes. So now he says, sounding very legal, that Qatar Airways will abide by its contractual agreement if Boeing will deliver the 787s in 2011.

It is clear that Boeing cannot possibly deliver any 787s to Qatar Airways in 2011.

The first fuselage scheduled to become a Qatar Airways 787 is No. 57.  According to All Things 787, the 787 No. 31 was to begin final assembly on Dec. 22, 2010.No. 32 is to begin final assembly Jan.  13, 2011 and No. 33 on Jan. 25, 2011.

If that production schedule is maintained, and everything goes perfectly, the first Qatar Airways 787, No. 57, would begin final assembly in late January 2012.  Completion and tests would push the delivery back to mid-year 2012 even if there were no additional delays.

It appears that Mr. Al-Baker, probably at the advice of his legal staff, has requested that Boeing make him a Cambric shirt without seam or needlework. Then Boeing will be a true love again.

In fairness to Boeing, that is probably no more possible than it was for the “true love” of “Scarborough Fair.”

I remain short Boeing.

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(Tim Raetzloff, who operates Abarim Business Computers at Five Corners in Edmonds, evaluates Puget Sound business activity in his regular column in the Beacon. In the interests of full disclosure he says, “Neither I nor Abarim have any interest in or conflict with any company mentioned in this column.”)

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