A British judge on Tuesday denied a bid by Qatar Airways to reinstate a jet contract cancelled by Europe’s Airbus, Reuters reports.
The companies have been locked in a safety dispute for months on Europe’s A350 long-haul jet. Their unprecedented bust-up widened in January when Airbus revoked a separate deal for 50 smaller A321neos that Qatar says it needs to open new routes.
The judge rejected Qatar’s claim that it could not find alternatives, for example by leasing jets or deploying 737 MAX jets that it has provisionally ordered from Boeing.
The decision means the world’s largest planemaker is free to market the in-demand A321neos to other airlines, or remove them from industrial plans to ease factory congestion, while the two sides focus on their central dispute over safety of the A350.Qatar has grounded more than 20 A350s after paint erosion exposed damage or gaps in a metallic sub-layer designed to absorb lightning, which hits airliners on average once a year.
The Gulf carrier says this raises questions over the safety of the affected jets and is refusing to take more deliveries pending investigation, while seeking $1 billion in compensation.
Airbus, which acknowledges quality problems but insists the airplanes are safe, has retaliated against Qatar’s decision to halt A350 deliveries by pulling the A321neo order.
In a breakdown of industry unity on safety, it has accused the A350’s biggest customer of airing invalid safety concerns to avoid taking more jets at a time of weak overall demand.
“Airbus is pleased that this issue is now behind it and that we can now focus on the main topic of misrepresentation by Qatar Airways of safety and airworthiness of the A350,” it said.
Qatar had no immediate comment, but a person familiar with the carrier said the A321neo row was secondary to its safety concerns over A350 damage, which it blames on a design defect.
A Reuters investigation in November revealed the problem affected other carriers, though apart from Qatar none has taken planes out of service, except for surface repairs. Qatar Airways was ordered to pay most of Airbus’ costs on the A321neo part of the case.