Qatar Airways has decided to acquire 60 Airbus A350s, becoming the largest customer to date for the new airliner and the first client in the Middle East. The deal is for a mix of A350-800s and larger A350-900s.

Deliveries of Qatar Airways’ Airbus A350-800s are due to begin in the third quarter of 2010, with those of its A350-900s starting several months later.

“We see ourselves as a leader in passenger comfort and service, building on the benefits of a modern and economical fleet, and are thus very excited about leading the way with the new Airbus A350,” says Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al-Baker. “And with the new Airbus A350 sharing the same cockpit type-rating as the A330s that we fly today, modernising our fleet will be a very simple step.”

“Qatar Airways’ attention to passenger service is legendary, so we are delighted to have it as a launch customer for the new Airbus A350,” says Airbus President and CEO Noël Forgeard. “We take great pride of our partnership with Qatar Airways which dates back to its inception. As Qatar Airways has evolved into a world class airline, our partnership has grown and prospered, and is now set to continue into the future with our latest aircraft.”

Qatar Airways is the largest all-Airbus operator in the Middle East and one of the world’s leading airlines, with a fleet that comprises aircraft from the A320, A300/A310 and A330/A340 families. It is also a customer for the 21st Century flagship, the A380.

Qatar Airways will use the A350-800s and –900s to complement its A330s and A340s on regional and long-haul routes, respectively. Envisaged non-stop routes from Qatar Airways’ Doha base include New York and Melbourne for the A350-800s, and Johannesburg, Manilla and Tokyo for its A350-900s.

With up to 60 per cent of weight-saving new advanced materials, in the form of carbonfibre wings and an aluminium-lithium fuselage, the Airbus A350 will be lighter per seat - and hence more economical. This design, together with centralised maintenance and extended check intervals, will also help to give the Airbus A350 attractive maintenance costs.

Airbus is an EADS joint company with BAE Systems.