Qatar Airways suffered yet another major setback in its high profile and increasingly bitter and costly legal dispute with European aircraft manufacturer Airbus at London’s High Court on Thursday.
A British judge ruled that Airbus should be allowed to continue trying to deliver its A350 aircraft to the Qatari flag carrier while a legal wrangle over the airworthiness of the multi-million-dollar aircraft continues through the courts.
Qatar Airways has 20 of the larger A350-1000 aircraft on order from Airbus that are still to be delivered. Lawyers acting on behalf of the Doha-based airline had hoped to win an injunction that would prevent Airbus from trying to deliver the aircraft so as to avoid defaulting on its contract with the aerospace giant.
Judge David Waksman rejected that plea, leaving the door open for Airbus to attempt delivery as and when it completes building the aircraft. Should Qatar Airways reject any of the deliveries, Airbus may charge the airline default fees and resell the aircraft to another airline.
Airbus has already managed to sell A350s destined for Russia’s Aeroflot to Turkish Airlines, while the manufacturer has been courting the new owners of Air India to secure an A350 deal.
Last month, Qatar Airways lost another battle with Airbus over the fate of a separate $6 billion order for 50 single-aisle A321neo aircraft. The High Court ruled Airbus was within its rights to cancel the order on the grounds that Qatar Airways had broken a cross contract clause over its refusal to accept its A350s.
Qatar Airways brought legal proceedings against Airbus after a spat about the airworthiness of the A350 saw Qatar’s civil aviation regulator force the airline to ground 21 of its A350 fleet over safety concerns.
The grounded A350s suffer from a paint defect in which paint cracks, bubbles and peels away from the composite structure fuselage. In some cases, the paint damage is so bad that a special layer of mesh that covers the fuselage for lightning protection is exposed and could be damaged.
Airbus insists the problem is purely cosmetic and that there is no reason for the aircraft to be grounded. The European Air Safety Agency (EASA) which certifies the A350 agrees with Airbus’ assessment but requires airlines to monitor the issue.
Qatar Airways started legal action in London’s High Court after Airbus allegedly refused to determine the “root cause” of the problem.
On Thursday, Judge Waksman rejected the airline’s demand that Airbus be ordered to carry out a deeper analysis of the paint defect. The court did, however, agree that the case should be heard as soon as possible, although the next available trial date isn’t until Summer 2023.
“The costs for both sides are way over the top in my judgment,” Judge Waksman told both sides in comments reported by Reuters. “There is far too much time that is being spent here,” he continued.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.