Back On Good Terms With Airbus! The Qatar Airways Fleet In 2023

Though now settled, Qatar Airways' battle with Airbus has affected is fleet immensely over the past two years.

Qatar Airways Airbus A380
Photo: Qatar Airways

With over 200 aircraft, the passenger fleet of Qatar Airways is quite diverse: The oneworld member operates both widebodies and narrowbodies from both Airbus and Boeing out of its hub at Doha's Hamad International Airport. The airline's smallest jet is the Airbus A320, while its largest is the A380 superjumbo - a demonstration of just how varied the fleet currently is in terms of size. A prolonged but now-settled feud with Airbus has significantly shaped the airline's present and future fleet - all aspects that will be examined in this deep-dive examination of Qatar Airways.

The mainline passenger fleet at a glance

While notes that the Qatar Airways fleet presently consists of 236 aircraft, this count also includes 28 freighters flying for Qatar Airways cargo: 26 Boeing 777Fs and two Boeing 747-8Fs. As this examination is limited to the airline's passenger fleet, we will only look at the 208 passenger aircraft flying for Qatar Airways. The types and quantities are as follows:

  • 29 A320-200s

  • 5 A330-200s

  • 7 A330-300s

  • 34 A350-900s

  • 19 A350-1000s

  • 10 A380s

  • 9 777-200

  • 54 777-300ER

  • 30 787-8

  • 11 787-9

With ten different aircraft variants across six types, you can see just how diverse the passenger fleet of Qatar Airways is. Interestingly, the A321-200s that once flew for the airline are no longer part of the fleet, as it appears that the last two of these stretched narrowbodies were retired between June and December 2022. It's also worth noting that the airline retired its last Airbus A319s in June 2020 and February 2021.

Qatar A320
Photo: Qatar Airways

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The impact of the Airbus A350 paint saga

As we had already noted in the introduction to this piece, Qatar Airways' legal battle with Airbus over A350 surface degradation has had a strong impact on the airline's current fleet composition. While the case was settled recently, some two years of fighting have resulted in Qatar Airways refusing to accept new A350s from Airbus, eventually leading to a cancelation of orders for both outstanding A350s and A321neos.

Airbus and Qatar have both confirmed to Simple Flying that these orders have been reinstated due to the court battle being settled, ​​​​​​but the airline has had to adapt in the interim - particularly as many of its A350s have been grounded by Qatar's civil aviation regulator.

Qatar Airways A321
Photo: Qatar Airways

In May 2019, we reported that Qatar Airways had plans to retire its A320 and A330 fleets. The plan at the time would have seen a gradual phasing-out of the A330 and A320 models through 2024. A 2017 statement from Airbus revealed that the A321neos were to join the airline from 2019 onwards, something that has yet to materialize.

Indeed, the original plan hinged on the airline modernizing the fleet with A321neos, A350s, and 787s. However, due to the grounding of many of its A350s, the airline decided to re-activate its A330 fleet to maintain its capacity. Boeing's extended 787 delivery pause throughout 2021 and 2022 likely didn't help the situation, as the airline has only been taking delivery of new 787-9s recently.

All of this has significantly pushed the airline's fleet age upwards, as the A330s are an average of 16 and a half years old. The average overall fleet age sits close to eight and a half years at the time of publication, although this also includes the Qatar Airways Cargo freighters.

At the same time, Qatar Airways continues to operate a sizeable fleet of A320-200s. With an average age of just over ten and a half years, the airline was hoping to have retired these narrowbodies by now - replacing them with A321neos.

Qatar Airbus A330
Photo: Qatar Airways

Return of the A380

The airline's grounding of its A350s and refusal to accept new airframes of the same type has also led toa comeback for the A380. While the airline had taken delivery of a total of 10 superjumbos, only seven are currently active. Despite the move being welcomed by aviation enthusiasts and A380 fans, the airline's CEO, Akbar al Baker, reiterated in 2022 that the quadjet's reactivation isn't a long-term solution:

“Due to the grounding of the A350s by our regulator and me having a shortage of capacity, my only alternative was to recommission them at a high cost… I need the volume, and I need the capacity, but as soon as I start getting deliveries of my airplanes and we get enough capacity, we will ground [the A380s].”

Qatar A350 and A380

The airline chief added that, out of the eight that were reactivated to fly, only seven are actually serving passengers.

"We keep one spare because today, you have difficulty getting spares for them because of the supply chain. [Airbus] stopped producing them, so there is no more incentive to make spares.”

At the time of publication, Qatar Airways' A380s, from their Doha hub, serve the Australian cities of Perth and Sydney, while also flying to London Heathrow twice daily.

Aircraft from other airlines

On top of reactivating its own stored jets, Qatar Airways has had to find capacity by acquiring aircraft further afield. This has seen the carrier take four Boeing 777-300ERs that previously flew with Cathay Pacific, as well as another two 777-300ERs coming from Virgin Australia. The two jets from Virgin Australia are relatively recent additions - entering service for Qatar Airways in December 2022 and February 2023.

For those interested in the specific aircraft, the ex-Cathay 777s are registered A7-BOA, BOB, BOC, BOD. The ex-Virgin Australia jets are registered A7-BOE and BOF.


Beyond securing Boeing 777s, Qatar had also arranged a wet lease agreement with Oman Air for three A330-300s. This deal saw Oman Air provide the A330s along with crew, maintenance, and insurance. From Doha, these jets mainly serve the cities of Colombo (Sri Lanka), Dhaka (Bangladesh), and Tunis (Tunisia). However, data shows that the jets have also been deployed to cities like Beirut (Lebanon) and Cairo (Egypt).

Airbus or Boeing? Or both? Qatar Airways' future fleet

At the height of tensions between Airbus and Qatar Airways, the European planemaker canceled outstanding A350 orders and the entire A321neo order. In retaliation, in January 2022, Qatar Airways placed a significant order with Boeing. The airline committed to 50 777-8 freighters while also signing a Memorandum of Understanding for up to 50 737-10s. Months later, at the Farnborough Airshow in July, Qatar Airways firmed up its MAX order, committing to 25 with options for a further 25 of the type.

Commenting on the MAX order in January 2022, Akbar al Baker stated:

“Qatar Airways very much looks forward to adding the 737-10 to its fleet, with this new variant of the 737 being ideally suited to our short haul network, allowing us an opportunity to further enhance our product offering for our customers, modernize our fleet and operate the most efficient aircraft in its category,”

Boeing 737 MAX Qatar Airways
Photo: Qatar Airways

Of course, Qatar Airways has since settled its case against Airbus and both parties have confirmed that orders will be reinstated. This will see a backlog of 50 A321neos and 23 Airbus A350s re-added to the order book.

"Qatar Airways and Airbus are pleased to have reached an amicable and mutually agreeable settlement in relation to their legal dispute over A350 surface degradation and the grounding of A350 aircraft. A repair project is now underway and both parties look forward to getting these aircraft safely back in the air."

A321neo Qatar Airways
Photo: Qatar Airways

So with the A321neo deal back on the table, the big question is what Qatar Airways will do with its Boeing 737 MAX 10 order? After all, the two aircraft types are similarly sized (although they have their own different operational strengths). At this point, no public announcements have been made. However, there are a few scenarios that could play out:

  • The airline can keep its MAX 10 order, leading to increased fleet diversity (and complexity)

  • It could cancel this order completely and pay any attached penalties

  • And finally, it could swap the order for other Boeing products, including other MAX variants, 787s, 777-8Fs, or 777-9s

There's a possibility that the airline has already gone with the last option, as an ex-S7 Boeing 737 MAX 8 was recently spotted with partial Qatar Airways livery. As first reported by Aerotime, the MAX 8, registered N5573K, was seen at Portland International Airport with winglets and rudder showing Qatar colors and patterns. We'll just have to keep an eye out for any announcements or changes to the orderbook in the near future!

Forever young

Qatar Airways has always prided itself on operating a fleet with a low average age. At the moment, its website states that it has "one of the world’s youngest airlines fleets, with an average aircraft age of approximately five years." While this figure is fairly out of date at this point, we know that a young fleet will always be a priority for the airline.

Qatar Airways 777
Photo: Qatar Airways

In May of 2021, Simple Flying had the opportunity to ask Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker a series of questions as part of our Future Flying webinar series. On the topic of sustainability and carbon output, the airline chief stated:

"[The] Qatar Airways fleet is very young...we don't let the average fleet age exceed 10 years. I don't think there is any other airline that does that. And we are committed to [continuing that]. And tomorrow, if Airbus or Boeing [introduces a newer] generation aeroplane, we will immediately sign for it to replace our current 787s and A350s. So we will continuously invest for the future generation in order that we keep on reducing our carbon emissions, our emissions from our engines."

Qatar Boeing Order
Photo: Qatar Airways

With this in mind, we can expect Qatar Airways to be (mostly) operating new aircraft. While its dispute with Airbus might have disrupted this goal, the fact that the 'paint saga' is now settled, should allow the resumption of new Airbus deliveries, with new Boeing jets coming in a few years' time.

What do you think of Qatar Airways' current and future fleet? How do you think it will manage its Boeing 737 MAX 10 order in light of its A321neo order restoration? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment!

Sources:, Aerotime,

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