Even as the two parties prepare for a multibillion-dollar lawsuit in London’s High Court, aircraft manufacturer Airbus still wants to mend its strained relationship with Qatar Airways.
Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said at the Singapore Air Show on Thursday that the European planemaker was still aiming to reach an “amicable solution” with the Doha-based airline.
Qatar Airways was one of Airbus’ most important customers until recently, but the relationship has deteriorated due to a paint quality flaw that Qatar’s civil aviation regulator considers an airworthiness risk.
Although both Airbus and European regulators believe the flaw is purely cosmetic, Qatar Airways has already grounded 21 of its Airbus A350 jets as a result of the problem, and has refused to take delivery of at least two more A350s as a result of the problem.
Qatar Airways has ordered that Airbus investigate the “root cause” of the issue, which causes paint on the aircraft fuselage to bubble, split, and peel away. A specific lightning protective layer has been exposed in some spots due to the flaw.
Airbus further worsened the relationship by threatening to seek legal guidance on the matter, but Qatar Airways was the first to act, filing a lawsuit and asking at least $600 million in compensation.
Airbus subsequently unilaterally canceled a $6 billion deal for 50 A321neo jets that Qatar Airways had on order, in what looks to be retaliation.
Because Qatar Airways refused to honor the A350 contract, Airbus argued it was within its rights to cancel the order.
Qatar Airways hopes to get the A321neo deal reinstated by the London High Court, but in the meanwhile, the airline has inked a second contract with Boeing for 50 737MAX jets.
Faury justified his decision to reject the purchase once more on Thursday.
“We had to make the decision to exercise our rights,” Faury said. “This decision followed many attempts to find mutually beneficial solutions and we continue to hope for an amicable solution.”
Faury also dismissed claims that Airbus was taking advantage of market conditions in order to boost sales of its hugely popular A321neo aircraft.
I”t is not self-serving,” Faury hit back. “It comes from the contractual situation with Qatar Airways. We are now in a legal dispute and we have to take steps which are really linked to that very specific situation.”
Faury, on the other hand, still wants to mend his shattered relationship with Qatar Airways, but time is running out before the two parties have to go to court. Qatar Airways has not responded to Airbus’ new comments on the dispute.