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‘Qatar Airways threatens Airbus over European landing rights’

CEO claims forthcoming order worth $37 billion could be halted if landing rights at European airports are further denied

Qatar Airways is reportedly reconsidering its order of 186 aircraft with Airbus, complaining that European governments are restricting fair competition.

Speaking to German daily Handelsblatt, Qatar Airlines CEO, Akbar Al Baker, claims that airport chiefs and governments around Europe were prioritising more local airlines when allocating landing slots.

Based on the valuation of the aircraft in question, if such threats were to materialise, Airbus could face a staggering loss of more than $37 billion.

The relationship between the Qatari flagship carrier and the European aircraft manufacturer has, until now, been very healthy with more than two thirds of its current fleet coming from Airbus.

Nonetheless, the issue of landing rights – or slots – has often proved detrimental in the highly competitive aviation industry. As such, Al Baker warns: “If they (European airport slots) are limited further, we will stop buying European aircraft. We have 186 orders at Airbus. What impact would that have on German jobs?”

Emirates Airlines has also expressed concerns that its proposed routes to key European destinations, including Berlin, are continuously overlooked, according to Reuters. Should these concerns spill over into Airbus’ order numbers, as Al Baker warns they may, many will begin to question the dominant grip the manufacturer currently holds over the Middle Eastern market.

It is worth noting that only two weeks ago, Airbus suffered a major blow, as a $16 billion order for 70 Airbus A350 planes was scrapped, becoming the largest aircraft cancellation in history.

With Qatar Airways’ order very much on the assembly line, Airbus is likely to start lobbying European airport chiefs for a change in approach with its Middle Eastern clients. If the largest aircraft cancellation in history is considered a major blow to Airbus, losing an order approximately double its size may very well be game changing.