Qatar Airways CEO takes delivery of a 737 at Paine Field

The Renton-built 737 Max 8 is the first of 20 for rebranded Air Italy, now a Qatar Airways holding.

MUKILTEO — Qatar Airways and its corporate partner, Air Italy, marked the delivery of the first of 20 737 Max 8 airplanes at a celebration Friday at Paine Field.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker and Francesco Violante, chairman of Air Italy, were among the dignitaries attending the afternoon unveiling.

Qatar Airways, which purchased a 49 percent interest in Air Italy less than a year ago, is committed to building Air Italy into that nation’s No. 1 carrier, Al Baker told more than 100 guests who gathered inside the Future of Flight Aviation Center.

All 20 737 Max 8s will be part of Air Italy’s fleet, Al Baker told The Herald in an interview. Eventually, Air Italy’s entire fleet is to be replaced, Al Baker said.

“We want to make Air Italy a success as a minority shareholder. We want to make sure it’s highly successful and profitable, not only for Qatar Airways but for the Italian people,” Al Baker said.

Air Italy, however, will not be flying to or from Qatar, he added.

Violante said Air Italy’s goal over the next five years is to transport 10 million passengers to and from Italy.

Italy’s Alitalia Airlines is currently in receivership.

Deliveries of 737s typically take place in Seattle, Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman said. In this case, “the customer likes the museum and wanted to have an event here in Everett.”

Boeing’s newest version of the Renton-built 737, the Max series, includes new engines, new avionics and modified winglets, among other changes from previous generations of the plane.

Qatar Airways has purchased nearly 150 Boeing aircraft and has another 150 on order, Al Baker said.

Qatar chose the Boeing model over its competitor, the Airbus A320, because “it meets our requirements and is the optimum airplane, “ Al Baker said.

After a short opening ceremony, a curtain was dropped to reveal the new aircraft, painted in Air Italy’s green and brown colors.

The glass hanger door rose, and Al Baker stepped onto the red carpet, gesturing for guests to follow.

Qatar Airways, which is owned by government of Qatar, has been involved in a regional dispute that resulted in a ban of the airline from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Saudi Arabia, for one, said it was cutting ties because of Qatar’s “embrace of various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilizing the region,” including the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida, the Islamic State group and militants supported by Iran. Qatar long has denied funding extremists.

The move forced Qatar Airways to reroute flights in the region. Al Baker said Friday there has been no progress in getting the ban lifted.

Janice Podsada: jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097.

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