It was an unusual setting for a major aircraft order announcement. Media had been informed by Qatar Airways that the airline and Boeing would be making an “historic” announcement. But it would not be in Doha or Seattle, or even at one of the major air shows where large airline orders are typically announced. Instead, reporters were invited to the posh Four Seasons hotel in Washington DC’s upscale Georgetown neighborhood for a breakfast buffet, a press conference and luncheon.

After nibbling on flavored croissants, journalists were ushered into a packed room where Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker and Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Ray Conner appeared before a backdrop announcing that “Qatar Airways and Boeing Make Historic Announcement.”

However, the orders—firm for 30787-9s and 10777-300ERs plus a letter of intent for up to 60 737 MAX 8s—were secondary to Al Baker’s real message: a public poke in the eye to Airbus.

With only two established mainline aircraft manufacturers in the world, it’s not uncommon for airlines to engage in hard bargaining that includes playing Airbus and Boeing off each other. But Al Baker routinely takes what are usually confidential negotiations between airlines and the manufacturers into the public spotlight, letting the world know exactly what he thinks of aircraft types and, in many cases, where Qatar Airways’ dealings with the manufacturers stand.

Al Baker has been upset about the Airbus A320neo since late last year, and he pulled Qatar Airways as the re-engined narrowbody’s launch customer over a startup restriction issue with its Pratt & Whitney PW1100G geared turbofan (GTF) engine.

Sitting in the US capital city in front of media in early October, he shared his opinion on Toulouse vs. Seattle. “I’m sure that inside [Airbus], they know that Boeing makes the best airplanes,” he said.

Of course, Conner must know that the tables could easily turn. Al Baker in the past has expressed his disappointment with Boeing, particularly when the manufacturer was working through 787 program delays. In 2009, the airline CEO famously told the press that “heads would roll” if he were running Boeing.

During the October news conference in Washington, Al Baker drew laughs when he proclaimed that Boeing executives “have to listen to me a lot.”

Qatar Airways has refused to take delivery of any of the 50 A320neos it ordered, and has “walked away” from four, saying it does not believe Airbus lived up to the terms of its contractual obligations on those aircraft.

As a launch customer, Qatar Airways would have received a special price on the neo that both recognized some risk and makes it difficult to negotiate further deep discounting. Contrast the airline’s attitude with ANA, launch customer for the 787, which was significantly delayed into service and which then caused serious disruptions when the aircraft’s lithium-battery problems led to a temporary grounding. Throughout, ANA kept its negotiations with Boeing behind closed doors and private, and worked with the OEM through the fixes.

Qatar Airways could not take delivery of its first 737 MAX 8 until 2018 at earliest. How many of the 60 Boeing narrowbodies it takes will likely depend on how many of the 46 neos it decides to receive. Airbus is under pressure to meet Al Baker’s demands, or cede the sales to Boeing. That is clearly the leverage Al Baker seeks to use in future negotiations. The question is, will his highly public negotiation tactic pay off this time for Qatar Airways or, indeed, even Boeing? The backlog of orders for the neo means that Airbus should have little trouble finding replacement customers and/or moving up delivery slots to those airlines that would like to get the neo sooner.

Al Baker’s use of air shows and press conferences to publicly express his approval or disapproval of OEMs or an opinion on industry matters is almost unique among airlines. Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair’s CEO, Michael O’Leary, is famously outspoken and fond of a press conference. But O’Leary has remained steadfastly loyal to the 737 and is publicly complimentary about Boeing while tight-lipped on aircraft negotiations.

And for all Ryanair’s profitability, O’Leary would never spend money on chalets at air shows as Qatar Airways routinely does, let alone buy a sushi lunch for the press at a five-star hotel.