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Airbus Still Wants to Patch Up Broken Relationship With Qatar Airways in Bitter Paint Dispute

Airbus Still Wants to Patch Up Broken Relationship With Qatar Airways in Bitter Paint Dispute

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus still wants to patch up its broken relationship with Qatar Airways even as the two sides gear up for a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit in London’s High Court.

Speaking at the Singapore Air Show on Thursday, Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury said the European airframer was still hoping to reach an “amicable solution” with the Doha-based airline.

Until only very recently, Qatar Airways had been one of Airbus’ most important customers but the relationship has soured over a paint quality defect that Qatar’s civil aviation regulator deems an airworthiness issue.

Both Airbus and European regulators believe the defect is merely a ‘cosmetic’ issue but Qatar Airways has already grounded 21 of its Airbus A350’s jets because of the defect and has refused to take delivery of at least two more A350’s over the issue.

Qatar Airways has demanded Airbus investigate the “root cause” of the defect which causes paint to bubble, crack and peel away from the aircraft fuselage. In some areas, the defect has exposed a special lightning protection layer.

Airbus strained the relationship still further when it threatened to seek legal advice on the issue but Qatar Airways ultimately pulled the trigger first by filing a lawsuit and demanding a minimum of $600 million in compensation.

In what appears to be a retaliatory action, Airbus then unilaterally cancelled a $6 billion deal for 50 A321neo jets that Qatar Airways had on order. Airbus said it was entitled to cancel the order because Qatar Airways was refusing to honour the A350 contract.

Qatar Airways is hoping to get London’s High Court to reinstate the A321neo contract but in the meantime, the airline has signed a separate contract with Boeing for 50 737MAX jets.

On Thursday, Faury once again defended his decision to cancel the order.

“We had to make the decision to exercise our rights,” Faury said. “This decision followed many attempts to find mutually beneficial solutions and we continue to hope for an amicable solution.”

Faury also rejected criticism that Airbus was taking advantage of market conditions for Airbus’s wildly popular A321neo range.

I”t is not self-serving,” Faury hit back. “It comes from the contractual situation with Qatar Airways. We are now in a legal dispute and we have to take steps which are really linked to that very specific situation.”

Nonetheless, Faury still wants to patch up the broken relationship with Qatar Airways but time is running out before the two sides are due in court. Qatar Airways has not commented on the latest input on the dispute from Airbus.

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