The dispute between Airbus and Qatar Airways enters a new turn

The legal battle between Airbus and Qatar Airways appears to continue through most of 2023 after a British court decided to split the case, amid hopes that high-level contacts on the sidelines of the soccer World Cup could lead to a breakthrough.

The row over damage to the surface coating and lightning protection of the A350 jets, which have been grounded by Qatar, has led to a public war between two of the biggest players on the global aviation scene and caused major orders to be canceled in an unprecedented move.

Judge David Waxman ordered the case, scheduled for next June, to be split into two parts because of the sheer scale of the disputes, meaning the public dispute, unusual for the industry, would drag on for months.

The first part will focus on liability, while the claims, whose total value is estimated at about two billion dollars, will be considered later.

Qatar Airways says that cracks in the paint revealed greater damage to the surface of the aircraft, which prompted it to stop receiving new orders. The national regulator for the aviation sector in Qatar, the General Authority of Civil Aviation, has stopped at least 29 aircraft due to concerns
related to safety over the past year.

Airbus acknowledges quality flaws in its flagship long-haul jet, but denies there is any safety risk and has canceled all new business with Qatar Airways, which has ramped up purchases from Airbus rival Boeing.

Friday’s deliberations saw furious arguments between the two sides over access to the damaged planes, with Airbus lawyer David Wolfsen complaining, citing photographs, that the company’s experts were forced to photograph the planes from a distance “under the moonlight”.

He also accused the airline of deception to prevent experts from examining
aircraft in service.

Qatar Airways strongly denied not cooperating with the checks and said it allowed access according to availability given the country’s hosting of the soccer World Cup.

“We have to keep in mind that this is an operating airline,” said the company’s attorney, Geraint Webb.

World Cup diplomacy

The latest court showdown comes as France’s qualification to the World Cup final in Qatar has increased high-level contact, which is seen as an opportunity to explore potential areas of agreement. There are no signs yet of a settlement being reached.

The Qatar News Agency stated that senior officials were receiving French President Emmanuel Macron at Doha airport upon his arrival this week to attend his country’s semi-final match, including Akbar Al-Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways. Macron is also scheduled to attend the final on Sunday.

Some considered that Al-Baker’s reception of Macron in his capacity as Minister of Tourism is an indication that the dispute is between the two companies and does not extend to the strong diplomatic relations between the two countries, but some diplomats said that politics may have an impact on the outcome of the judicial dispute.

Reuters reported last month that the dispute had attracted the attention of the French and Qatari leaders, who discussed it last December during Macron’s previous visit to Doha.

“Every time there is contact, there is an opportunity to improve the atmosphere,” said a source familiar with the issue, but others cautioned that the distance between the two sides was still great.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *