Qatar's executive fleet, Obama's visit, Boeing's first 737 MAX 7 and more

Qatar Airways' new Gulfstream G650ER executive jet has a range of nearly 14,000km and can fly nonstop between Doha and New York.

Nevil Gibson's business travel roundup describes the growth in executive jets; a possible new US destination for Air NZ.

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Qatar builds executive jet fleet
Qatar Airways has taken delivery of its fourth ultra-long range Gulfstream G650ER executive aircraft, making it the world’s largest owner-operator. The G650ER has a range of 7500 nautical miles (13,890km), enabling it to connect Doha nonstop to Cape Town or Tokyo or New York to Doha. Qatar has a fleet of 12 Gulfstream and Bombardier executive jets. A further four are expected later this year when the airline takes delivery of another G650ER and three Gulfstream G500s. Five more deliveries are expected during 2019.

Waiting for word on Obama visit
Nothing’s been heard from Air New Zealand since media reports linked an unconfirmed visit by former US President Barack Obama with the launch of an Auckland-Chicago route. Former Prime Minister Sir John Key, now a member of the Air New Zealand board, is said to be brokering the trip.

The national airline has consistently said it wants more non-stop flights to mid-west and east coast America but awaits suitable long-range aircraft. These are the new Boeing 777X and Airbus A350ULR.

However, Air New Zealand will take delivery of the final two of its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner order this year. Both will have the lower density configuration used on existing North American services and means Chicago could launch as early as November. The 7112nm (13,171km) flight would be Air New Zealand's longest route yet, with the return trip to Auckland expected to take up to 17.5 hours, depending on winds.

Frequent flyer digital wallet uses blockchain
Singapore Airlines says its KrisFlyer scheme is set to launch the world’s first blockchain-based airline loyalty digital wallet. It is due within six months and will allow its members to use digital Krisflyer miles for point-of-sale purchases. It has been developed in collaboration with KPMG Digital Village and Microsoft. The airline is now signing up retail merchant partners, initially in the Singapore market.

Air cargo extends Jumbo life
Boeing’s 747 Jumbo has been given a slightly longer lease on life, thanks to the air cargo transport industry. UPS has ordered 14 747-8 cargo variants to handle the "accelerating demand" for its air freight services. This comes about two years after a previous order from UPS, also for 14 747-8s. All 28, in addition to four new B767 aircraft that were also part of this order, will be delivered to UPS by the end of 2022.

Boeing’s 737 MAX 7 makes debut
The first Boeing 737 MAX 7 has emerged from the company's Renton factory near Seattle (pictured). The MAX 7 is the third and newest member of the 737 MAX family. It is designed for up to 172 passengers and has a maximum range of 3850nm (7130km), which is the longest range of any MAX model. The MAX 7 is scheduled to enter service in 2019 after delivery to launch customer Southwest Airlines in the US.

Meanwhile, the 737 MAX 10, which is 66in longer than the 737 MAX 9, has moved into the detailed design phase before the start of production. It will carry up to 230 passengers, delivering 5% lower trip costs and 5% lower seat-mile costs compared with its competition, Boeing says.

The MAX 10 has more than 416 orders and commitments from 18 customers. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2020. The MAX 8 has been in service since 2017, already carrying more than 1.8 million passengers, and the first MAX 9 is scheduled to be delivered in the coming weeks.

Etihad sheds B777s from its fleet
Abu Dhabi-owned Etihad Airways is pulling five Boeing 777-200LRs from its fleet after deciding last year to drop some flights. The airline has more than 100 mostly widebodied aircraft on order to be delivered over the next seven years.

The 777-200LRs, which have come off reduced flights to the US, are likely to be sold. Etihad stopped flying to San Francisco last October and will soon end flights to Dallas Fort Worth. It continues to fly to Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington DC using B777-300s and A380s.

WestJet launches subsidiary
Canada is getting a new carrier. Swoop, an ultra-low-cost subsidiary of WestJet, which will operate from Hamilton, southern Ontario. Swoop will fly internally to Abbotsford (BC), Edmonton, Winnipeg and Halifax. The first flights, Hamilton-Abbotsford and Hamilton-Halifax, will be on June 20. Other routes will follow on June 15 and July 25. Some of the routes will replace services already run by WestJet.

Route news of the week
Singapore Airlines says Osaka will be the first scheduled destination for its new Boeing 787-10 fleet, with services expected to begin in May. The airline will be the world’s first airline to operate the "stretch" Dreamliner and it has 49 on firm order. The first, pictured above, is due for delivery from Boeing’s North Charleston, South Carolina, factory in March. Cathay Pacific has extended its planned Hong Kong-Copenhagen seasonal route by two weeks. It will now run from May 2 until October 26 and be operated by an A350-900 three times a week. Qatar Airways has opened reservations for its latest destination in Turkey. The Doha-Hatay route will use an Airbus A320 three times a week from April 4.

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