Qatar Airways and Airbus are heading for what is described as an exceptionally rare London court clash in the aviation industry in June 2023.
Qatar Airways is ready to see its legal battle with Airbus unravel in trial over flawed surfaces of A350 wide-body jets, the carrier announced. The national airline said it felt it necessary to issue a detailed statement due to the “inaccurate information and statements that continue to be issued by Airbus.”
The Gulf carrier is suing the European plane manufacturer in a UK court for $1 billion in damages upon grounding more than 20 of its flawed A350s. Qatar Airways says the damages raise safety concerns, which Airbus and European regulators deny and insist damages do not pose a hazardous risk.
As of now, the Gulf carrier has appeared ‘broadly isolated’ in the battle as other carriers persist to fly the jets, Reuters said. Qatar Airways, however, has won some public encouragement from international airlines entity, the International Air Transport Association, as well as rival airline Emirates.
A UK judge on 26 May rejected requests by Qatar Airways for a series of injunctions, paving way for a full trial over the A350 surface complications and a separate but related dispute a decision by Airbus to revoke a contract for smaller jets.
Last week while supporting the airline’s call for a fast trial, the UK Judge David Waksman stated: “I am in absolutely no doubt that this case should be tried as soon as is practically possible.”
He did deny Qatar Airways’ request to split the trial into two parts in order for Airbus to carry out a more in-depth technical investigation, which the planemaker claims it has already done.
A statement released by the Gulf carrier said: “Judge Waksman in a hearing at the High Court has exposed for all in the aviation sector to see, the fiction of the Airbus narrative that the condition affecting the Airbus A350s is a simple ‘cosmetic’ paint issue. In his ruling, based on evidence provided by Airbus, Mr Justice Waksman set out his findings that there is no simple fix to the problem.”
The airline further said that the written version of the judge’s ruling presented some arguments that it intends to make in the main trial.
While the legal battle continues, the British judge also rejected ordering Airbus to stop formally trying to deliver more A350s to Qatar Airways, or to abstain from reselling undelivered aircraft.
Based on the procedural judgement, the European planemaker is allowed to try and enforce payment obligations as more planes are manufactured. It could also try to sell A350s that the Gulf carrier has refused to carriers like Air India, Reuters said.
In short, Judge Waksman noted that the issue that originally arose in one plane in late 2020 could potentially affect all A350s due to the choice of materials.
Airbus is aware that such problems usually affect carbon composite aircrafts but argues it is not a safety concern. Qatar Airways maintains it cannot ensure for certain whether it is a safety problem until Airbus provides a more thorough explanation.
“Qatar Airways is ready to see this matter through to trial to ensure that its rights are protected and that Airbus is required to address an unprecedented and extremely unique and concerning defect impacting the A350 aircraft type, across the industry and multiple carriers,” the carrier said in the statement.
Airbus dismissed what it defined as a misreading of last week’s ruling, saying: “Airbus is surprised by Qatar’s complete mischaracterisation of the UK High Court ruling which rejected all of Qatar’s requests for injunctions,” as reported by Reuters.
“Airbus continues to favour engagement and an amicable solution to resolve the dispute,” the planemaker added.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said: “I just hope that this dispute could be resolved outside the courts of law.”
Qatar Airways on A321 case defeat
Regarding the A321 jets, Qatar Airways expressed in the statement that it “is extremely concerned about the precedent that Airbus is setting in the market to wrongfully terminate a launch customer aircraft order as they no longer wish to abide by the terms which they committed to and are legally obligated to, having entered into such arrangements freely.”
In late April, Qatar Airways lost a legal battle against Airbus over the A321neo jets, which meant that the plane manufacturer is now able to cancel the carrier’s order for its A321neo single-aisle jets.