British judge orders the plane manufacturer to postpone its decision to revoke a $6bn jet order from Qatar Airways.
The move will prevent Airbus from granting its early delivery slots for its in-demand A321neo plane to other airlines. It comes pending an early April hearing at which Qatar Airways plans to seek an injunction reinstating the contract.
This comes after Airbus unexpectedly cancelled an entirely separate order for 50 of its new A321neo passenger jets in Jan 22nd. The cancellation of the $6bn order placed by Qatar Airways marked a sharp escalation in the legal battle between the aviation industry giants.
Qatar Airways condemned the decision in a hearing held on Friday. “They took the risk and knew it would be absolutely incendiary. We have paid $330m for this (A321neo) contract so far and they knew it was a hand grenade being thrown into our bunker,” Qatar Airways lawyer Philip Shepherd said.
Escalating court battle
The legal dispute was sparked by a series of alleged problems with the Airbus A350 aircraft in what Qatar Airways has labelled as ‘serious and legitimate safety concerns.’
In late-2020 and early 2021, the Gulf carrier discovered that the surface paint over the lighting protection on 21 A350 jets was eroding. The Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) decided to ground those planes last year over safety concerns.
The grounded jets represent 40% of Qatar Airways’ A350 fleets.
In December of last year, Qatar Airways took Europe’s Airbus manufacturer to the UK High Court in London. The airline demanded $618 million in contractual compensation from the plane manufacturer.
While Airbus acknowledged the quality problems, it accused the airline of mislabelling them as a safety issue to secure compensation.
However, there are ongoing attempts to reach a resolution. On Thursday, Airbus Chief Executive Guillaume Faury said his company is seeking an “amicable” settlement over the long-standing dispute.
Turning to Boeing
With 40% of Qatar Airways’ A350 fleets grounded and Airbus’ recent cancellation of the A321neo order, the airline signed a major $34bn deal with Airbus’ competitor, Boeing. This deal is meant to fill the commercial aircraft supply gap.
The Gulf carrier moved fast as it secured an order for 50 Boeing 737 Max 10 jets on 31 Jan. It also became Boeing’s launch customer for a freighter version of the plane manufacturer’s future flagship jet, the 777X.