Qatar Airways is ready to see its legal dispute with Airbus over flaws with the protective skin of A350 wide-body jets through to trial, the Gulf carrier said on Tuesday, May 31.
Qatar Airways is suing the European planemaker in a UK court for USD 1 billion in damages after grounding about two dozen of its A350s experiencing the flaws, which it says raise safety concerns – something Airbus and European regulators deny.
Until now, Qatar Airways has appeared broadly isolated in the dispute as other airlines continue to fly the jets, though the Gulf carrier has won some public encouragement from global airlines association IATA and rival Gulf carrier Emirates.
A British judge last week rejected Qatar Airways’ requests for a series of injunctions, clearing a path towards a full trial on the A350 surface problems and a related dispute over the planemaker’s decision to revoke a contract for smaller jets.
On Tuesday, May 31 the airline noted that a longer written version of the judge’s decision reflected some arguments that it intends to make in the main trial, as it took the unusual step of reproducing lengthy extracts from the judgment.
Summarising evidence in preliminary hearings, Judge David Waksman noted that the problem that originally appeared in one plane in late 2020 could potentially affect all A350s because of the choice of materials, for which there was no simple fix.
Airbus has acknowledged that such issues tend to affect carbon composite aircraft but maintains it is not a safety issue. Qatar Airways says it cannot know for sure whether it is a safety problem until Airbus provides a fuller 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,” it said in a statement.
Airbus dismissed what it termed a misreading of last week’s ruling, which had seen Qatar’s procedural requests rejected while forcing the airline to pay most allowable Airbus costs.
“Airbus is surprised by Qatar’s complete mischaracterisation of the UK High Court ruling which rejected all of Qatar’s requests for injunctions,” the planemaker said in a statement. “Airbus continues to favour engagement and an amicable solution to resolve the dispute,” it added.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker told reporters in Doha last week, “I just hope that this dispute could be resolved outside the courts of law”.
“Qatar Airways remains within its contractual rights to reject delivery of further A350 aircraft whilst the aircraft type suffers from a design defect which has now been acknowledged by the court, and for Airbus to abuse its strength in the market to terminate a separate and unrelated contract for another aircraft type is extremely damaging for our industry.”Qatar Airways
The carrier also said it was “extremely concerned” about the precedent being set by Airbus in cancelling the A321 contract.
Barring a settlement, which the judge last week described as unlikely for the time being, the two sides are heading for a rare London court clash starting in June 2023.
(With Inputs from Reuters)