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An Airbus A350 – 1000

Qatar Airways has said that it expects to receive its first Airbus A350-1000, the largest aircraft in the A350 family, by the end of this year.

The news comes after the airline abruptly canceled an order for four smaller A350-900s last month, apparently due to production delays.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said this week that the first of 37 A350-1000s that the airline has ordered will arrive in Qatar before the end of December.

“Airbus has assured us we would receive our airplanes, though late, but we will receive it before the end of the year,” he told reporters in Doha on Wednesday.

The airline will be the launch customer for the brand new A350-1000, just as it was the launch customer for the slightly smaller A350-900.

Qatar Airways currently has a fleet of 19 A350-900s.

Larger seating capacity

Likely to fly to routes in Europe, the US and Asia, the Airbus A350-1000 will have a larger capacity than its A350-900 sister aircraft.

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An Airbus A350-1000 takes off from the Airbus factory in Toulouse, France

The Qatar Airways A350-900 has 36 business class seats and 247 in economy.

Meanwhile, the airline’s new A350-1000 will include 46 business class and 281 economy seats.

Premium passengers will be pleased to learn that the new A350-1000s will come fitted with the airline’s new “QSuites”.

These offer greater privacy and the possibility to create a double bed for passengers seated next to each other in the middle row.

Qatar Airways

The new “QSuite” in Business Class

Additionally, the middle seats have a screen that can open up to allow four passengers to eat together or chat.

New airway

Also this week, Al Baker fielded questions about the partial reopening of UAE and Bahraini airspace to Qatar Airways.

The two countries announced the move earlier this week following intervention from ICAO, which had called on them to honor international aviation rules.

@alexinair / Twitte

The new airway into Doha

Responding to this, Al Baker said that the new airway was “very short” and that the airline was still studying the “benefits” of using it.

“We are evaluating and studying it – it’s only been two days,” he said.

According to the Gulf Times, the official also urged the ICAO to push harder for the complete reopening of airspace in the region.

“It is the job of ICAO to demand from these countries the unconditional opening of the airspace – not restricting only on high seas, but unconditional opening of the airspace into their flight information region (FIR) minus their territorial airspace,” he said.

Data from flight monitoring website FlightRadar24 suggests that Qatar Airways has not begun using the new route.

Thoughts?

Omar Chatriwala / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Concerned about the ongoing Gulf dispute and the slowing growth of Qatar’s banks, credit agency Moody’s has downgraded its outlook for the country’s financial system.

Qatar’s banks now have a negative outlook, instead of a stable one.

This reflects “Moody’s expectation of how bank creditworthiness will evolve in Qatar over the next 12-18 months,” the agency said.

QNA

For illustrative purposes only.

The news will likely put pressure on Qatar to seek a speedier resolution to the crisis with its neighbors, which is now in its third month.

The dispute with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain is currently at an impasse, with no side willing to make any concessions.

According to Moody’s, Qatar’s bank profitability will only continue to decline if the crisis continues.

What’s going on

One of the biggest factors affecting the latest rating is investor sentiment.

Confidence in Qatar’s banks has dropped due to lower global oil prices and an overall economic slowdown, Moody’s said.

It forecasted Qatar’s GDP to be 2.4 percent this year, down significantly from the 13.3 percent rate seen during the blockbuster growth years of 2006-2014.

“However, (Qatar’s GDP) remains the highest in the GCC, driven by high levels of government spending in preparation for the FIFA World Cup in 2022,” Moody’s added.

Still, a prolonged dispute could hurt bank liquidity, which is already tight due to reduced energy revenues, it said.

Pixabay

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Notably, Qatar’s banking sector isn’t the only one suffering from the Gulf dispute.

Earlier this week, a major lender warned that a prolonged boycott could hurt Dubai’s status as a regional financial hub.

This is because the dispute puts international banks in a difficult position, Standard Chartered CEO Bill Winters told Reuters.

“There is a risk of turning away from the UAE,” he added.

Working toward dialogue

As pressure builds to come to a resolution, both Kuwait and the US stepped up efforts to mediate the dispute.

This week, two American envoys have been sent to the region to speak to officials about opening up direct negotiations between Qatar and its neighbors.

Kuwait is also trying to hammer out “a set of measures” to help jumpstart dialogue between the nations, Gulf News reports.

Thoughts?

Sohar Port

Sohar Port in Oman

Qatar-based shipping and logistic company Milaha Maritime is relocating its regional trans-shipment hub from Dubai to Oman’s Sohar port.

The firm announced the move as the Gulf dispute enters its third month, signaling that it does not expect things to be resolved any time soon.

Since the blockade began in June, Qatar has been unable to move goods via the UAE. This in part caused imparts to drop dramatically in June.

Milaha

Milaha operations

However, more companies have now turned to Oman, which has remained neutral in the dispute, as a new shipping link.

Growth elsewhere

In addition to Oman, Milaha added in a statement that three Indian ports can now also be used to trade with Qatar.

And Qatar’s transport ministry said three new direct shipping lines are being opened with Malaysia, Pakistan and Taiwan, Al Jazeera reported yesterday.

These countries, along with Oman and Kuwait, are expected to benefit financially from doing trade with the countries affected by the boycott.

But how the blockade has affected the UAE’s massive Jebel Ali port remains unclear.

Financial status challenged

Separately, analysts have warned that an economic embargo on Qatar could hurt Dubai’s status as a financial hub for the region.

According to Reuters, lender Standard Chartered said the boycott puts global banks in a difficult position.

George Shahda/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

“There is a lot of benefit we get from having a Dubai hub, we are looking to see what the effect of this will be,” the group’s CEO Bill Winters said.

“There is a risk of turning away from the UAE,” he added.

Thoughts?