Qatar Airways (QR, Doha Hamad Int'l) has no plans to take the B737-8s which it ordered for its now quasi-defunct subsidiary Air Italy, is not interested in ordering A321-200NX(XLR)s, and thinks that ordering ten A380-800s was its biggest fleet mistake ever, Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said during a webinar with Simple Flying.

The Qatari airline originally planned to order up to sixty B737 MAX 8s but never actually firmed that Letter of Intent (LOI) from 2016. It eventually took just five aircraft, of which three were delivered to Air Italy - in which Qatar Airways Group held a 49% stake - via Standard Chartered Aviation Finance. The aircraft were parked in March 2019 when all B737 MAX were grounded and, following the collapse of Air Italy in February 2020, were returned to the lessor. They remain parked at Budapest airport. The other two were never delivered and remain at Everett airport, the ch-aviation fleets advanced module shows.

"We have already swapped our order of B737s with Boeing and the aircraft that we have at the moment are already being given back to the lessors," Al Baker said.

He added that while the airline intends to take all ten of the A321-200NX(LR)s it has on firm order from Airbus, it would not be ordering the (XLR) variant.

"We are going to take all the fifty A321neo [including forty A321-200Ns and ten (LR)s] that are on order. The (LR) is being taken by us so that, when there is a downturn - our network is very seasonal in one direction or the other - it is a perfect aeroplane to use when the trend is offseason," Al Baker said.

He added that the (XLR) would be unnecessary as Qatar Airways has no plans to operate truly long haul routes with narrowbody jets.

In terms of aircraft already in the airline's fleet, Al Baker admitted that the decision to buy ten A380-800s was the carrier's "largest mistake" and that there would be no "market for the aircraft in the foreseeable future".

In turn, the airline is still eagerly expecting its B777X widebodies of which it has ten B777-8s and fifty B777-9s on firm order from Boeing. Al Baker said that while Qatar Airways would not be the type's launch operator, it still hopes to take delivery of the first B777X in 2022. Boeing recently confirmed the first B777X delivery was unlikely to happen before 2023, although another large customer, Emirates, is concerned that the delays might be even longer.

Finally, Al Baker remains interested in a dedicated freighter version of the A350 widebody.

"We will be soon replacing our current fleet of freighters, and we would want to replace it with the best freighter that is available. We would be very happy to be the launch customer of the new variant," he said.

Currently, Qatar Airways' cargo fleet comprises two B747-8(F)s and twenty-four B777-200Fs (besides nine B787-9s converted into makeshift freighters during the COVID-19 pandemic). The airline operates thirty-four A350-900s and nineteen A350-1000s in passenger configurations, and has a further twenty-three -1000s on firm order from Airbus.