DALLAS — A new court decision has been taken as the dispute between European aircraft manufacturer Airbus and Middle Eastern airline Qatar Airways (QR) continues: split the trial in 2023.
While Airbus seems content with the decision, QR’s primary position is that it opposes the application by Airbus to split the trial into dealing with issues of liability and then quantum. The airline’s take on the matter is that the fact that Airbus had to ask for this suggests that it is not well-prepared.
This quarrel between two major companies started because of paint issues QR is encountering on some A350s. The airline grounded the aircraft and refused to take delivery of any additional A350s. Airbus would later cancel all of QR’s orders, including numerous A321neo and A350 family airplanes.
The issue has already been debated in a UK court this year, but the trial has not yet started. In May 2022, a judge issued orders for a “speedy trial” and gave an indicative window of June 2023 for the beginning of the official trial.
However, Airbus raised concerns that a June 2023 trial may not be possible because of shortcomings in the airline’s disclosures. At the last court hearing, the European plane maker managed to convince Judge David Waksman to split the trial for June 2023 into two parts.
Qatar Airways wants to resolve the dispute as a matter of urgency as it has had to resort to leasing aircraft from other airlines, which is undesirable from a business stance.
With regard to commercial support or settlements relating to the acceptance of repairs for problems similar to the surface deterioration of the A350s that QR is experiencing, Airbus has been in communication with other operators, according to a Request for Information that the airline has submitted.
For the state-owned flag carrier airline of Qatar, it is clear that these documents exist, though it has not received a complete disclosure of them.
Airbus Welcomes the Decision
Airbus said it was “successful” as the judge decided that the matters that will be debated during the June trial will be “narrowed significantly” and will include “only the core matters.” However, QR said it wanted the court “to deal with as much of the dispute as possible at the trial.”
While Airbus says it “welcomes” the outcome of the hearing, the company has previously stated that splitting the trial may not be enough if the documents from QR do not arrive soon.
Conversely, QR’s stance is that Airbus has not been forthcoming with the commercial settlements it has entered into with various airlines relating to the condition and/or corresponding repairs of their A350 aircraft
The airline also claims that a further inquiry into Airbus’ actions regarding the delivery slots purchased by Qatar Airways for the delivery of the A321-Neos order, which Airbus has since claimed to have terminated, raises concerns about the company’s continued lack of candor.
With this new court hearing and a judge’s decision to split the trial planned for June, the dispute between QR and Airbus should last until the end of 2023 at the soonest.
Comments from Qatar Airways
A Qatar Airways spokesperson said, “Qatar Airways’ applications in this CMC sought to address the asymmetry of information caused by the fact that Airbus, the manufacturer of the A350, has failed to provide key technical information relating to the defect which is necessary for conclusive analysis as to the root cause.”
“We were pleased that the judge agreed with our applications and ordered the information be provided quickly to ensure the key issues are properly addressed by the independent experts.”
“In a trial of this scale, bifurcation is not unusual, and therefore it was not unexpected that the Judge ruled on this. The split of quantum issues was a compromise between both side’s preferences and we are pleased that this will ensure the key technical issues are the focus of the summer trial.”
Featured image: QR grounded a part of its A350 fleet due to surface paint damage issues. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways