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Qatar Airways and Airbus Settle Legal Dispute

Resolution in the Absence of Culpability

Qatar Airways and Airbus announced on 01 February 2023 that they had reached an amicable and mutually agreeable settlement vis a vis a protracted legal dispute over A350 surface degradation and the resultant grounding of the Middle Eastern carrier’s A350 aircraft.

A repair solution has reportedly been devised and implemented, and both parties assert they look forward to seeing the affected aircraft returned to service.

Details of the settlement—which occasions an admission of liability on neither Qatar Airways’ nor Airbus’s part—are confidential, and the airline and airframer shall henceforth suspend litigation. What’s more, the agreement enables Qatar Airways and Airbus to resume their long-standing, mutually-beneficial partnership, and move forward concordantly.

Secrecy notwithstanding, industry experts posit the settlement involves the payment of at least a portion of the $1-billion sought by Qatar Airways as compensation for the disruption of the air-carrier’s scheduled operations.

Prior to the settlement, Qatar Airways and Airbus had squared-off in the British courts over multi-hundred-million-dollar losses incurred by the airline following the grounding of 21 of its 53 A350 long-range, wide-body airliners. Qatar’s civil aviation authority deemed the airplanes un-airworthy following the discovery of substantial deterioration of their exterior paint and protective coatings. Airbus conceded the deterioration was premature, but maintained it presented no risk to safety of flight. Airbus’s assertions of safety were echoed by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)—an Airbus subsidiary.

Unconvinced, Qatar Airways prevailed upon the British courts to award it more than $600-million in damages, while Airbus—uncharacteristically reactive and unyielding—responded to the carrier’s invocation of litigious recourse by rescinding an unrelated Qatar Airways order for fifty A321neo narrow-body airliners, thereby portraying the conflict as a contractual matter rather than one of aircraft safety.

On 09 September 2022, Airbus stepped-up its retributory campaign by summarily canceling a Qatar Airways order for 19 additional A350 aircraft. The European consortium ascribed its action to a belief that the air carrier—which refused to take delivery of two A350s in February—no longer wished to honor its contracts with Airbus. Contrariwise, Qatar Airways claimed Airbus had canceled the order outright—prior to the carrier having had opportunity to accept or refuse the aircraft.

Qatar Airways, in point of fact, had previously and publicly asserted that it would refuse future deliveries of Airbus aircraft until the plane-maker provided a full root-cause analysis of the corrosion by which nearly half of the airline’s A350s are afflicted.

The newly announced settlement has reportedly restored Qatar Airways’ orders for 23 undelivered A350s and fifty A321neos. Deliveries of subject aircraft are slated to resume in 2023.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire welcomed the settlement, stating: "It is the culmination of significant joint efforts. It is excellent news for the French aerospace industry.”



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