BUSINESS

Airbus wins the first round against Qatar Airways

The legal battle between Airbus and Qatar Airways around the A350 began this morning under the authority of the High Court of Justice in London. And the European producer won the first round. British justice has in fact just given him reason on the cancellation of an A321 NEO contract, decided by Airbus in reaction to the accusations of the Gulf company against the A350. It’s certainly a bottom-up deal, but the 50-device contract was still valued at $ 4.6 billion at list prices when it was signed ten years ago. The court must now set the deadlines for the settlement of the main dispute relating to the degradation of the paint and the erosion of a protective layer of the A350s.

This contract, however wonderful, for the A321 NEO was canceled last January by the manufacturer. An extremely rare act, cancellations are overwhelmingly owed to airlines due to financial hardship, a change in the market, or dissatisfaction with the product. With this decision, Guillaume Faury, Airbus Executive Chairman, therefore firmly marked his dissatisfaction with Qatar Airways’ attitude towards the A350. The company and its emblematic boss Akbar Al Baker reacted by taking the case to court to denounce this unilateral cancellation. They were then fired.

Airbus cancels the contract for 50 A321 NEOs from Qatar Airways: twist in the dispute over the A350

Airbus satisfied, companies worried

Airbus naturally welcomed the decision, stating that the court had “recognized (its) position that transparent and trusting cooperation is essential in our industry”.

On the other hand, the concern appears to be quite orderly among companies. As reported Reuterssome industry executives fear that the A321neo controversy could set a precedent and thus pave the way for disputes that would reverberate from contract to contract, with the effect of strengthening the grip of Airbus and its American competitor Boeing.

A350 controversy: Qatar Airways presents the invoice to Airbus (half a billion euros)

The hardest part has yet to be done

The big shot is yet to come with the resolution of the main dispute over the A350. In early August, Qatar Airways announced that it had received an order from the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) to ground 13 of its Airbus A350s due to cracked paint on certain areas of the fuselage and vertical stabilizer, as well as deterioration. of expanded copper sheets (ECF, network of copper wires covering the carbon parts of the fuselage to provide lightning protection by forming a Faraday cage).

Since then, other planes of the Qatar company have been blocked and the situation has continued to worsen. Despite Airbus’ claim that these paint problems “have no impact on the airworthiness of the A350 fleet”, a diagnosis confirmed by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Qatar Airways has decided to initiate legal proceedings against end of 2021, then claim compensation of $ 618 million (€ 546 million).

Qatar Airways-Airbus dispute over A350: EASA gives its version of the facts

Airbus closes on its positions

On the occasion of this first round, Airbus reiterated that these were “false statements regarding the safety and airworthiness of the A350, (which it would continue) to defend, as well as the reputation of its operators and the rules governing aviation safety in in the face of unjustified complaints “.

The decision of the High Court of Justice in London on the calendar for the settlement of the dispute on the A350 is expected today.