Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker took an unusual step at the Berlin ITB trade show today when like Mark Antony in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar he declared he had come not to bury Boeing but to praise them.
In a packed press hall, the journalists, like slavering dogs of war had come to see battle done.
Fuse paper was lit. “Mr Al Baker, what do you think about the 787 Dreamliner and its ongoing suspension?”
Experienced Qatar-watchers knew this could develop into a quotable rant that would send shivers a continent away to Seattle, and accountants working out compensation deals just a little bit quicker.
But Al Baker shook them all. “We must support Boeing and have faith in the programme,” he told the stunned audience.
He said: "Qatar Airways must stand by Boeing instead of criticising them. The 787 is a very safe aircraft."
Al Baker said that the failure to replicate the battery fire problems indicated there was not a model-wide design fault, but instead pointed to workmanship on individual components.
"We are confident Boeing will find a solution," he said.
Closing those dropped jaws and then opening again one journalist asked if the Qatar Airways CEO would be happy to fly on a Boeing 787 fitted with Lithium batteries inside ceramic boxes – a fireproof solution that Boeing has considered.
Al Baker shot a withering glance. “I would be happy to fly in it without the boxes. It is a safe airplane,” he said.
The flagship aircraft was been grounded in January after lithium-ion batteries overheated on two 787s. Analysts believe it could cost Boeing an estimated $350 million.
Qatar Airways has taken delivery of five 787 Dreamliners out of 25 it has on order, representing about 4 percent of its current fleet of 121 aircraft.
Al Baker also found time to praise Ray Conner, the president of Boeing Commerical Airplanes for the way he has dealt with the crisis.
But as the accountants put away their calculators, any sense of relief was washed away with the final word.
“"I still have every confidence they will get the aircraft in the air in the not too distant future -but that doesn't mean I will not get compensation."