Qatar Airways and Airbus will confront one another in a three-month trial starting in June next year over the A350 dispute.
Airbus is in discussions with Qatar Airways in a bid to resolve a legal battle over safety issues pertaining to the A350 passenger jets, the planemaker’s chief executive said on Sunday.
“There’s progress in the sense that we are communicating; we are working with each other,” Guillaume Faury told Reuters on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) meeting in Doha.
“I think we share the view that a settlement would be a better way forward, but as long as you don’t have an agreement, you have no agreement.”
The airworthiness of Europe’s latest long-haul jets are up for dispute between the two sides after damage to the jets’ protective outer skin exposed gaps in lightning protection and prompted Qatar Airways to ground more than 20 of those jets.
Backed by major European regulators, Airbus acknowledges quality flaws, however, denies the issues pose safety risk as, it argues, there is sufficient backup lightning protection.
With its claims backed by its own national regulator, Qatar Airways, which has ordered the A350s to be taken out of service, insists that the magnitude of safety cannot be properly understood until Airbus provides deeper technical analysis.
In a public statement, Qatar Airways argued “the impact of the condition on safety of the affected aircraft can only be established once [it] has been properly investigated and the full root cause conclusively established.”
Described as an “exceptionally rare” public conflict in the aviation industry, the Gulf carrier is suing the European plane manufacturer in a United Kingdom court for $1 billion in damages upon grounding more than 20 out of 53 of its flawed A350s, with the value of the carrier’s claim rising by $4 million per day.
“We are in a difficult place, but we in Airbus are really willing to find a way out,” Faury said.
“We have been in discussion [and] the line of communication has never been broken between us and Qatar Airways. I am not suggesting it’s easy […] but we’re speaking to each other and we continue to support Qatar Airways in their operations,” he added.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker told reporters in May that he hoped the dispute could be “resolved outside the courts of law” while remaining deeply critical of the erosion of the jets, which has also affected other airlines.
So far, some aviation industry sources infer that the two sides are not moving towards a settlement, with a British judge last month calling into question the probability of the rift being resolved outside court any time soon given the “wide gap” between the parties.
The international meeting of airline chiefs is taking place in Qatar Between 19 to 21 June, bringing together Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury.
The event is hosted by Qatar Airways’ Akbar Al Baker.
The dispute is a special predicament as it further widened in April as Airbus won the legal case in a separate dispute over the smaller A321neos.
Airbus can now cancel Qatar Airways’ order for its A321neo single-aisle jets, granting the plane manufacturer an interim victory in a dramatic legal dispute with one of its biggest customers.
The much anticipated decision on the ruling was finalised by a UK court as it rejected the bid by the Gulf carrier to force Airbus to keep building its A321neo jetliners for the airline as part of a wider public row.
Airbus won the support for its case, as the two contracts are connected by a “cross-default” clause which allows it to “pull the plug on one deal when an airline refuses to honour the other,” Reuters reported.