Qatar Airways and European aircraft manufacturer Airbus announced on Wednesday that they had reached an “amicable and mutually agreeable settlement” in a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit that had been taking place in London’s High Court.
Both sides refused to provide details of the settlement but in a joint statement, the airline and airframer said the lawsuit would now be dropped. The agreement has allowed both parties to save face, with neither side admitting liability.
Qatar Airways had dragged Airbus into court over a dispute about a paint quality defect that affected the manufacturer’s next-generation A350 long-haul aircraft.
Qatar’s civil aviation regulator claimed that an issue that caused the paint to bubble, crack and peel away from the aircraft’s carbon composite fuselage was a serious safety flaw because it exposed a layer of copper mesh that acts as protection against lightning strikes.
The Doha-based airline feared the defect compromised the lightning protection and took the decision to ground as many as 30 of the planes until Airbus got to the root cause of the issue and provided a long-term fix.
For its part, Airbus denied the unsightly paint defect posed a safety risk but in recent court hearings, it had been revealed that the manufacturer had changed the design of the copper mesh in newer deliveries to prevent the issue from cropping up.
Airbus also admitted in court that it had reached settlements with other A350 operators that had experienced similar issues – although no other airline had chosen to ground the aircraft.
In their joint statement, Qatar Airways and Airbus said a repair project for the grounded jets was now underway, although no timeframe for completion was provided.
The statement added that “both parties look forward to getting these aircraft safely back in the air.”
“The details of the settlement are confidential and the parties will now proceed to discontinue their legal claims. The settlement agreement is not an admission of liability for either party.”
The dispute had derailed one of aviation’s closest business relationships and in retaliation for the lawsuit, Airbus had cancelled massive deals that Qatar Airways had in place for more A350s and single-aisle A321 aircraft.
Qatar Airways had turned to Boeing to plug the gap with 737MAX jets but on Wednesday, Airbus said it would now reinstate the orders. Unfortunately, Qatar Airways has partially lost its place in a long queue for delivery and the first of 50 A321neo aircraft won’t now be delivered until 2026.
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.