Qatar Airways asks compensation for 737 MAX, eyes Boeing 797 to become launch customer

Doha, Qatar - Qatar Airways will ask compensation from Boeing for the three Boeing 737 MAX owned by Air Italy, in which the Qatari Group is a major shareholder with 49% stake.

"At Qatar Airways we do not operate any MAX airplanes - it affected our investment in Air Italy," said Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker on Friday.

Boeing's 737 MAX jets were grounded worldwide after two fatal crashes and several airlines have dropped their orders for the aircraft due to safety concerns.

Azerbaijan's national carrier AZAL has joined the other airlines this week by scrapping a $1 billion deal for ten Boeing 737 MAX jets.

AZAL drops 737 MAX orders

"Air Italy has three MAX operated in its fleet and they were grounded so it affected us. We had to take the extra routing from outside. Boeing has to compensate us for grounding, but did not elaborate on the potential cost," the chief executive told Reuters.

In 2017, Qatar bought 49% of Air Italy. The company is the second-largest airline in Italy behind Alitalia.

Qatar Airways wants to become launch customer of the Boeing’s "New Midsize Airplane"

On the other hand, Qatar Airways aims to become the launch customer of Boeing’s proposed New Midsize Airplane (NMA), that is dubbed Boeing 797.

“What I’ve been shown by Boeing, I’m extremely interested in that airplane and I would like to be a launch customer,” Al Baker told Richard Quest of CNN during the sidelines of the IATA's annual general meeting held in Seoul, South Korea.

Last year in February, Delta Air Lines also expressed its desire to become the launch operator of Boeing 797.

Delta wants to be the first operator of Boeing 797

Boeing is planning to give a start to a new development program in 2020 for a 200 to 270-seat aircraft referred as New Mid-market or Midsize Airplane .

It is set to be produced in two versions: a 225-seat variant with 5,000 nmi (9,300 km) flight range and a 275 seat with a flight range of 4,500 nmi (8,300 km).

No final decision made yet whether to launch the program or not. If launched, the Boeing 797 is expected to enter into service around 2025.

Boeing and Airbus forecast from 2,000 to 4,000 aircraft for the market segment. Airbus is preparing to respond to the Boeing's NMA with the A321XLR that will be officially announced this month at the Paris Air Show.

Airbus A321XLR is expected to enter into service around 2023 or earlier if some of the existing A320neo orders are converted to A321XLR.