Qatar’s national carrier has also agreed options to buy a further two of the short-haul aircraft. The agreement with Airbus was signed on 15 July, the second day of the Farnborough International Airshow in the UK.

The airline’s chief executive, Akbar al-Baker, says the new aircraft will add to the carrier’s regional capability as it seeks to increase traffic across the Middle East and to the Indian subcontinent.

The A321 is a variant of the European manufacturer’s family of A320 short-haul aircraft. Qatar Airways already has 19 planes in the A320 class out of a total fleet of 65.

Qatar’s orders have been overshadowed by a far larger orders from rival Etihad Airways. In two separate deals announced on 14 July, the Abu Dhabi-based carrier agreed to buy $12bn worth of planes from Airbus and $10bn worth from Boeing.

Etihad has placed firm orders for 10 Airbus A380 superjumbos, 20 short-haul A320 aircraft and 25 of the manufacturer’s next-generation long-haul model, the A350, which is still under development.

Etihad also agreed options for a further five A380s, five A320s and 10 A350s, as well as purchase rights for another five A380s, 15 A320s and 15 A350s. The new aircraft will be delivered between 2011 and 2020.