DUBAI (Reuters) – Qatar Airways has upgraded an existing order for 50 Airbus A321neo jets to include 10 long-range models, as a regional diplomatic rift has forced the airline to fly longer routes.
The airline said on Thursday that 10 of those 50 aircraft would now be the A321LR, to be delivered from 2020.
A321s are the larger version of Airbus’ best-selling A320 narrow-body jet.
The airline said longer range A321s will help it launch flights to new markets where there is currently not enough demand for larger aircraft but which are out of reach of smaller A320s.
State-owned Qatar Airways has been banned from the airspace of neighboring Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain since June 2017 after those countries cut ties with Qatar.
It is also banned from Egypt’s airspace which also cut diplomatic relations with Qatar.
The airline lost access to 18 cities in those countries that cut ties. It has had to increase costs by operating longer flights on some routes to avoid the airspace of the four countries. Qatar Airways made a $69 million loss in the year to March 2018, blaming the rift.
Its order for 50 A321neos was made in 2017 when it upgraded an order for 50 A320neo family jets to the larger model.
An order for 50 A321neos would be valued at around $6.4 billion based on the average 2017 list price, according to Airbus’s website, but discounts are common, particularly on large orders.
Qatar Airways also upgraded five A350-900 jets on order to the bigger A350-1000 model in October.
(Writing by Alexander Cornwell; editing by Jason Neely and Susan Fenton)