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Qatar Airways hopes its Dreamliners fly again in April

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker poses for a photograph in the business class cabin of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner after it arrived on it'
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker poses for a photograph in the business class cabin of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner after it arrived on it'

By Nivedita Bhattacharjee

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said he hopes that all five of the airline's Boeing 787s will be back in service by the end of April, as confidence grows in the industry that regulators may be close to declaring the jet safe.

Speaking at the launch of Qatar's service to Chicago, Al Baker also said he thinks Boeing's fix for the battery system that overheated on two planes in January will work. He said if it were not the right solution, the Federal Aviation Administration would not have approved the testing plan for it. Boeing completed testing on April 5.

"The 787 has such a huge technological leap compared to other airplanes that it was obvious that some kind of teething problem will occur," Al Baker said in an interview.

"Boeing is very busy getting the certification process finished and I'm sure they'll give you something very soon."

On Tuesday, United Continental Holdings Inc's United Airlines said it planned to begin flying Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner on May 31, five days sooner than expected.

Al Baker, who has said he will seek compensation from Boeing over the 787 problems, declined to discuss the terms he is seeking

The fast-growing airline, which is enjoying a civil aviation boom in the Gulf region, has an order for up to 60 Dreamliners, 30 firm orders plus an option to buy 30 more.

The company also plans to use Boeing's next-generation 777X aircraft, which is still in development.

"I don't think the 777X would be around until the end of this decade or early part of the next decade," he said, adding that the 787's problems had not affected plans for other airplanes that Qatar gets from Boeing.

Qatar Airways, 50 percent owned by the state of Qatar, currently serves New York, Washington, D.C., Houston and Chicago in the United States. The company will be able to fully join the Oneworld alliance by October, Al Baker said, after which it will have code sharing arrangements with other Oneworld members, including British Airways .

Baker also said the new Hamad International airport, which was supposed to be open for a soft launch on April 1, will be fully operational by the end of 2013.

(Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee; Writing by Alwyn Scott; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Andre Grenon)

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