The head of one of the largest airlines in the Middle East says his company is no longer interested in ordering any CSeries jets from Bombardier because of repeated delays to the project.
"We have completely forgotten about it because you cannot wait indefinitely," Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the ITB travel fair in Berlin.
The CSeries is a line of next-generation jets that Montreal-based Bombardier is trying to bring to market. First envisioned a decade ago, the original schedule called for the first jets to be delivered to customers in 2013. But repeated delays have consistently pushed that launch date back. Currently, the company says it hopes to have the jet certified by the end of 2015 with first deliveries to customers some time shortly after that.
Test flight a success
Just last week, the company declared its first test flight of the larger 160-seat CS300 jet a success, after the plane took off from Mirabel airport and landed safely there about five hours later. Test flights for the CS100, about four metres shorter in length than the CS300, were suspended for three months last year following an engine failure.
"We've been struggling, we have had our share of challenges because of just the pure workload of developing such a complex and high-tech aircraft ... but we're getting close to the goal line, so I feel good about where we are," the company's newly minted CEO Alain Bellemare told journalists at the test flight last week.
Some of Bombardier's other customers remain optimistic. Swiss International Air Lines has ordered 30 of the aircraft for delivery beginning in 2016. Peter Wojahn, the Swiss airline's chief technical officer, was at Friday's test flight and said Bombardier has assured him of the plane's performance and its ability to finance the program.
"The feedback I got back ... gives us quite a good impression and a good feeling that the program will be a success and that we will get what we expect," said Wojahn.
Bombardier has 243 firm orders for the jets and has booked commitments for 563 in total — a list that doesn't include Qatar Airways. But airline analyst David Tyerman of Canaccord Genuity said Bombardier's order book is a concern because it contains some orders that are viewed as questionable.
The company initially thought the program would cost $3.9 billion US, but delays have ballooned that figure to at least $5.4 billion.