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Qatar Airways Suffers Major Setback in Legal Dispute With Airbus

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At London’s High Court on Thursday, Qatar Airways suffered yet another big loss in its high-profile, increasingly bitter, and costly legal battle with European aircraft manufacturer Airbus.

While a legal battle over the A350’s airworthiness continues in the courts, a British judge ordered that Airbus should be allowed to continue trying to deliver the multibillion-dollar plane to Qatar Airways.

Qatar Airways has placed an order with Airbus for 20 of the larger A350-1000 aircraft, which have yet to be delivered. Lawyers for the Doha-based airline wanted to obtain an injunction that would prevent Airbus from attempting to deliver the plane, allowing the company to avoid defaulting on its contract with the aerospace giant.

Judge David Waksman turned down that request, leaving the door open for Airbus to try delivery as soon as the plane is finished. If Qatar Airways rejects any of the deliveries, Airbus may levy default fees and resell the plane to another carrier.

Airbus has already sold A350s to Turkish Airlines meant for Russia’s Aeroflot, and the company has been pursuing the new owners of Air India to obtain an A350 deal.

Qatar Airways lost another dispute with Airbus last month over the fate of a $6 billion purchase for 50 single-aisle A321neo planes. The High Court found that Airbus had the right to terminate the deal because Qatar Airways had violated a cross contract condition by refusing to accept its A350s.

Qatar Airways has filed a lawsuit against Airbus following a debate over the A350’s airworthiness, which resulted in Qatar’s civil aviation regulator ordering the carrier to ground 21 of its A350 fleet due to safety concerns.

A paint issue on the grounded A350s causes paint to crack, bubble, and peel away from the composite construction fuselage. In some situations, the paint damage is severe enough that a specific layer of mesh that protects the fuselage from lightning is exposed and may be damaged.

The damage, according to Airbus, is entirely cosmetic, and there is no cause for the plane to be grounded. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which certifies the A350, concurs with Airbus’ assessment but advises airlines to keep an eye on the situation.

After Airbus reportedly refused to uncover the “root cause” of the problem, Qatar Airways filed a lawsuit in London’s High Court.

Judge Waksman denied the airline’s request that Airbus conduct a more thorough investigation into the paint problem on Thursday. The court did agree, however, that the matter be heard as soon as feasible, despite the fact that the next available trial date isn’t until Summer 2023.

“The costs for both sides are way over the top in my judgment,” Judge Waksman told both sides in comments reported by Reuters. “There is far too much time that is being spent here,” he continued.

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