Dubai: Qatar Airways plans to order up to 50 Boeing 777X aircraft — the new updated version of the 777s being developed by Boeing, according to the carrier’s top executive.

“We are very interested in the new 777X aircraft being developed by Boeing. We are looking at anywhere between 40 and 50 aircraft of the type,” Akbar Al Baker, chief executive of Qatar Airways, told Gulf News in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

He said that the airline would replace its existing fleet of 45 Boeing 777s — in operation and in the pipeline — (including 777-ERs-extended range and 777-LRs-long range) with the new type.

Asked if Qatar Airways had already initiated talks with Boeing for the new 777Xs, Al Baker said: “Yes, Boeing has presented the aircraft to us — they have presented the specifications. We have not gone into detailed discussions with them, but we will be doing it imminently.”

He added that the 777Xs will be offered somewhere “between 2020 and 2022”.

The Doha-based carrier has deferred its IPO (initial public offering) plans for 10 years. “Qatar Airways had plans for an IPO in 2009-2010. But we shifted it as we got right into the recession at that time. I think we will not do any IPO until at least the next 10 years,” said Al Baker.

The delay in opening Doha’s new airport — Hamad International — has cost Qatar Airways “approximately $650 million [Dh2.4 billion] in lost revenue”, Al Baker said. “It was a lost expansion opportunity for the airline, and this amount will be claimed by Qatar Airways from the airport owner, which in return will claim it from the people, contractors, consultants who were responsible for the delay,” he said, adding that he is confident the airport would open by this year end.

The airline aims to have a network of 173 destinations and an equal number of aircraft in its fleet in three years, according to Al Baker. On Monday, it announced route expansion on three continents this year — the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, Clark International Airport in the Philippines and Philadelphia in the US.

Talking of future plane deliveries, Al Baker said that he expects the first batch of the 80 Airbus A350s it has on firm order to be delivered in the second half of 2014. “We have not been notified of any delays yet and we hope there won’t be any. If there are delays, we are already looking at interim lift by ordering additional A330s,” said Al Baker.

Long-term codeshare

Asked if Qatar Airways was keen to strike a long-term codeshare alliances with other carriers — similar to Emirates’ alliance with Qantas — Al Baker said: “Yes, we are interested in long-term codeshare partnerships and this will be possible when we enter the oneworld alliance [later this year]. There will be a lot of opportunities for us to then get into this kind of relationships with the partners we have within our alliance.”

However, he did not divulge the airlines he was exploring such a possibility with.