Qatar Airways denied it owes Airbus SE USD 220 million in compensation for failing to accept A350 deliveries, in the latest salvo in a bitter legal dispute.
The Gulf carrier said in documents made public Monday, March 21 that it didn’t break its contract with Airbus when it refused to take two of the wide-body jets, and said the planemaker hadn’t properly explained how it arrived at the figure.
Qatar Airways, one of Airbus’s biggest customers, has been feuding with the planemaker over surface paint issues, rejecting further deliveries while the two sides argued and filed a lawsuit late in 2021. Airbus responded by cancelling orders for two A350s and a separate order for 50 A321s, a smaller plane.
Qatar Airways, which has asked for more than USD 700 million, said that the surface flaws could leave the plane vulnerable to damage from a lightning strike. The airline said the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, which has backed Airbus’s contention that there’s no safety issue, hasn’t undertaken an “extensive analysis.”
Qatar Airways also listed other carriers that have flagged concerns with the A350. They include Finnair Oyj and Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., which both raised questions as far back as 2016 before the Hong Kong carrier later reported problems with multiple planes. By October 2019, Etihad and Air France/Air Caraibes Atlantique had also reported such damage, Qatar Airways said.
The two sides also disagree over whether Airbus has adequately figured out the cause of the issue, and found suitable solutions. The manufacturer proposed a patch repair for one aircraft which Qatar said exhibited failings after one week.
In its legal documents made public on Monday, March 21 Airbus said that the cancellation of a separate A321 order for Qatar Airways won’t free up capacity for the oversubscribed model. The planemaker said it builds some customer attrition into its business model.
A judge is set to rule next month on whether the A321 cancellation is allowed to stand. Airbus has already provisionally added Qatar back into its plans, it said. It estimates it could deliver the first aircraft around the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with an original delivery date of February of that year.
(With Inputs from Bloomberg)