Qatar Airways is suing Airbus for steadily rising compensation, now exceeding to $1 billion.
Qatar Airways and Airbus unravelled their 25-year partnership in a legal dispute at a UK court over the fate of billions of dollars of jet orders.
The case was launched in late 2020 when Qatar Airways discovered paint erosion on 21 A350s as well as deterioration in the anti-lightning protection on the long-haul jets, which Airbus insists do not pose hazard risk.
Since then, the airline grounded 23 A350 jets and has stopped taking deliveries from Airbus. In turn, the planemaker has cancelled Qatar Airways’ order of a third A350 over the carrier’s rejection of its deliveries.
Their dispute assumed a bigger stage when the plane manufacturer decided to revoke its best-selling model order, the smaller A321neo, from Qatar in January. It declared “enough is enough” after the public clash over A350 safety concerns.
A final hearing to cancel the A321neo order will take place later this year, however it is temporarily on hold. On Thursday, the Gulf carrier requested a UK judge to further extend the temporary decision to ‘freeze’ its cancellation. The first A321neo is set to be delivered in 2023. A lawyer for Airbus said a Boeing jet would be a fitting alternative, a statement “which the airline noted was at odds with the plane maker’s marketing pitch,” Reuters reported.
The judge postponed a decision until April 26, when a further hearing is due to take place regarding a separate issue in the entwined A350 battle.
Reuters has argued that the court filings have brought industrial planning and details of “usually secretive” aircraft negotiations under the microscope.
“One would certainly not want to be sitting under a roof in that condition,” Qatar Airways’ lawyer, Philip Shepherd said before the court as he referred to the damage on the crown of the fuselage of the A350 jets.
Airbus insists the jets do not pose hazard risks. Upon responding to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which has backed Airbus’s claim that the planes do not present any safety issues, the carrier stated the agency has not undertaken an “extensive analysis.”
Airbus told the court that its relations with Qatar Airways had “seriously broken down” after what it describes as a “manoeuvre to win compensation and cover up weak demand for plane tickets,” Reuters said. Qatar stated Airbus has failed to uphold its promises and reiterated its impatient needs for more planes to smoothly host the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
Both sides were entangled in an “industrial custody” row in court and were confronted with the decision of wether or not to work together on other planes still in the fleet or looking to be delivered.
The issue of their cooperation is significant as the judge weighs the decision to retain the A321neo deal alive for now.
The judge is yet to rule on Qatar’s request for an injunction and will also weigh which side has “most to lose and to what extent the plane is unique in its category,” the report added.
Alluding to the Gulf carrier’s request for the A321neo case, Airbus told the court Qatar Airways could replace the cancelled A321neos with the competitor Boeing 737 MAX, which it “provisionally” placed the order in December last year, or with the Airbus jets that are “available from leasing companies.”