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Qatar Air may buy more A380s, but not for longest routes

BERLIN, March 6 (Reuters) - Qatar Airways, which plans to start flying the Airbus A380 to Europe this summer, may expand its order for the world's largest jetliner but is not interested in using it on the world's longest routes, its chief executive said on Thursday.

The Gulf carrier has already ordered 10 A380s and is getting ready to take delivery of the first three.

It has options to increase its order to 13 aircraft but has time to make a decision, Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said.

"We could even order more (on top of existing options) if we feel that this aircraft is a really good performer," Akbar Al Baker said on the sidelines of the ITB Berlin tourism fair.

"We want to take delivery and see how it is operating in our environment with our yields and our traffic pattern."

But although Qatar Airways has $50 billion of other models at list prices on order, its support for the A380 will remain eclipsed by that of Dubai's Emirates, which has ordered a total of 140, making it by far the double-decker jet's top customer.

Explaining why Qatar had decided against flying to Los Angeles while introducing three new U.S. routes, Al Baker said, "I will only go if I cover my costs... I would not necessarily want to make a big profit but at least I don't want to lose.

"If you go those long distances, especially with an A380, you will lose your shirt, because the A380 is a very expensive airplane to operate on ultra-long haul. Unless you get the right yield, you won't make a profit on the airplane," he said.

"This is why we have a very small number of A380s. The A380s were very good when the fuel price was 30, 40, 50 dollars a barrel, but when you have to spend 100-120 dollars for fuel it becomes very difficult," he told reporters.

Airbus did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

Al Baker said that, at current order levels, he was not interested in tentative proposals to update the 525-seater's four engines in an effort to boost both performance and sales.

"You cannot buy 10 or 12 airplanes with one engine and then get planes with a different engine. If I bought 50 more, then I would consider, but I don't think I will order 50 A380s."

Al Baker said he was "very happy" to operate A380s on flights to Europe, for example. The airline expects to receive its first three in June and will inaugurate services starting with London and then two other "probably European" destinations that Al Baker declined to name.

Qatar in November provisionally ordered 50 of Boeing's 406-seat 777-9X, a proposed revamp of its twin-engined 777 with an expected range of 8,200 nautical miles (15,200 km). The A380 has a range of 8,500 nautical miles, according to Airbus.

Qatar is also launch customer for the twin-engined A350, which it expects to receive in the last quarter of this year.