Qatar Airways has announced its intention to acquire 32 Airbus aircraft - including 14 options - to modernise and expand its fleet, as part of a deal that is the largest in its history. The deal comprises two A321s, eight A330-200s, six A330-300s - plus options on a further six A330s - and two A340-600s – plus options on a further eight. In addition, Qatar Airways is to lease two Airbus A330-200s from GECAS.

The acquisition means that Qatar Airways will continue as an all-Airbus operator into the future, while making it the first Middle East customer for the A330-300 and a new client for the A321 and A340-600.

Deliveries of the A321s and A330s begin in spring 2004, while the A340-600s are due to be delivered in summer 2006.

"When you are a young and fast-growing airline in a competitive market, you need additional aircraft to help grow passenger numbers and expand your network," says Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al-Baker. "We are also building on a long-standing partnership with Airbus, and are looking forward to benefiting from the unrivalled commonality among its aircraft family.

Qatar Airways currently flies an all-Airbus fleet comprising nine A300-600s, an A310, two A319s, ten A320s, five A330-200s and one A340-200. The airline is also due to take delivery of two A380s in early 2009. Qatar Airways chose the A340-600s because they can fly very long nonstop, point-to-point routes - such as from its Doha base to the USA – while also being economical on shorter routes to Asia.

"It’s always impressive to see a service-orientated airline such as Qatar Airways succeeding in the marketplace, and always a great source of pride and satisfaction to know that Airbus aircraft are playing a part in that success," says Airbus Chief Executive Officer Noël Forgeard. "This deal also confirms the value and standing of our product range in the market."

Qatar Airways has chosen an A340-600 version with additional payload/range flexibility via an increased 376 tonnes maximum take-off weight (MTOW). As with its other aircraft, Airbus will offer different A340-600 MTOWs, including today’s 365 and 368 tonnes.

Airbus offers airlines and their passengers the world’s most modern airliner family, whose benefits include cabin comfort, economy, reliability and widespread commonality. Cockpit commonality is widely recognised as a key benefit throughout the modern range of Airbus fly-by-wire aircraft, saving airlines money in training and giving them greater flexibility in operation.

The success of Airbus’ modern designs is clearly visible in the marketplace, where Airbus is now winning more than a half of the orders placed worlwide, and in the almost 200 customers that have place more than 4,700 orders for them around the world. Airbus is an EADS joint Company with BAE SYSTEMS.