Cancel Preloader

Qatar Airways CEO: The Airbus A380 Is Too Unsustainable To Operate


  • Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, believes that government targets should be set to force companies to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in order to reduce its price and increase supply.
  • The airline plans to phase out the Airbus A380 from its fleet due to its high cost and environmental impact and instead focus on more fuel-efficient and cost-effective aircraft like the Boeing 777X.
  • Al Baker is skeptical about the future of supersonic commercial aircraft due to concerns about emissions, noise, and the advancement of engine technology.

Qatar Airways, on September 15, kindly made His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, available to select aviation journalists. Al Baker was in Seattle for a banking conference, so decided it was only fair to market his airline and share the carrier’s and his views on the state of commercial aviation.

al Baker at 12mm - with 777-300ER model in foreground

Photo: Joe Kunzler | Simple Flying

This article is the first in a series of products from the Qatar Airways event, as pictured above. Simple Flying would like to thank Qatar Airways and Four Seasons Seattle for hosting the event.

SAF is up against incentives to not produce enough

A main topic of discussion at the media roundtable was the production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and the Qatar Airways perceptions of the search for sufficient SAF supply at reasonable prices. As Al Baker shared in response to Jon Ostower of The Air Current:

“We need to force government targets on all companies in order for them to produce SAF. Only when they produce SAF in economies of scale, will the price be able to be reduced. As an airline, we are okay to pay 10% or 15% more. But we are really not prepared to pay 500% more just simply because people will start stop traveling by air because it will become so expensive.”

Al Baker went on to share that he is opposed to a SAF quota as it would simply raise prices while governments can write off the financial harm from such a move. Al Baker is concerned that too high ticket prices may force both freight and passengers to other modes of transport – and that insufficient SAF supply means not meeting net-zero targets.

A380 is just too unsustainable

During the media roundtable, Simple Flying inquired as to the future of the Airbus A380 in Qatar Airways service. CEO Al Baker shared with the journalists that the A380 contributed to Qatar Airways declaring a $4 billion+ loss in 2021. Al Baker expanded by sharing,

“Unfortunately, with the shortage of capacity, after we grounded our 31 A350s, we were so stuck for capacity that we brought eight of them back into service. As a matter of fact, only seven are operating, and one is a standby airplane, just in case we get a technical disruption from them,

… As soon as we start getting those [777Xs] in numbers, we intend to ground the A380s again, We don’t see that first because of the emissions. And secondly, it’s a very cost-ineffective airplane.”

Al Baker has shared this concern about the A380’s inefficiencies for some time, dating back to at least June 28, 2021, as per the below Simple Flying YouTube;

Al Baker said at the time that “the damage it does to the environment should be a priority and not comfort.” This is congruent with the thoughts Al Baker shared at the September 2023 media roundtable.

As far as we are concerned, I think we are the only airline in the world that always jumps as soon as we know that there is an aircraft that will reduce our CO2 signature.

One should note that the 777-8 of the 777X family carries notably less fuel and more freight for only 206 fewer passengers in a three-class configuration. Plus, the 777-8 can go farther with a smaller footprint.

Below is a Long Haul by Simple Flying YouTube from October 2022 to compare the two aircraft:

Ultimately, it’s clear that by the end of the mid-2020s, the Qatar Airways Airbus A380 fleet will once again be parked as the A380s were during the COVID-19 pandemic, as pictured below:

As Al Baker shared in the 2022-2023 annual report;

“We take our responsibility to care for the environment seriously and sustainability is at the forefront of our business planning across the group.”

Therefore, fuel burn is very much a concern for the CEO – and a four-engine aircraft is less welcome at Qatar Airways than a two-engine one, especially with SAF promising to be more expensive than traditional aviation fuels. Furthermore, Qatar Airways is the launch customer for the 777X freighter.

A skeptical eye on Overture

Al Baker made clear during the event that he doubted a supersonic aircraft would return to commercial aviation. Al Baker shared,

“I think the notion of somebody producing a supersonic airplane I don’t think is going to come to fruition.”

The executive believes that emissions and noise will keep future supersonic commercial aircraft from happening. Plus, he is skeptical of the ability to advance engine technology versus the Gulfstream G700 in Qatar Airways’ executive fleet at Mach 0.935 is ‘fast enough.’

A render of Boom's Overture supersonic aircraft

Photo: Boom Supersonic

Nonetheless, Overture’s Symphony engines will run on SAF. The program also has a test aircraft in XB-1 about to fly. We at Simple Flying will stay tuned to the Boom Overture program.

What are your takeaways? Please share in the comments.

  • Qatar Airways Airbus A350-1041A7-ANN
    Qatar Airways’ Airbus A350-1000 has a capacity of 327 passengers. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

    Qatar Airways

    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Doha Hamad International Airport

    Year Founded:


    Akbar Al Baker


  • rsz_airbus_50th_years_anniversary_formation_flight_-_air_to_air


    Stock Code:

    Business Type:

    Date Founded:

    Guillaume Faury

    Headquarters Location:
    Toulouse, France

    Key Product Lines:
    Airbus A220, Airbus A320, Airbus A330, Airbus A340, Airbus A350, Airbus A380

  • 787-8 Dreamliner


    Stock Code:

    Business Type:

    Date Founded:

    Dave Calhoun

    Headquarters Location:
    Chicago, USA

    Key Product Lines:
    Boeing 737, Boeing 747, Boeing 757, Boeing 767, Boeing 777, Boeing 787


Related post