A UK court has ordered Airbus to delay its Qatar Airways plane cancellations in yet another chapter of the legal dispute between the two industry giants.

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus had previously said it intended to revoke a $6 billion contract from the Qatari flag carrier, and this latest order to halt any practical effects of that decision is likely to come as a blow, as it essentially bars them from reallocating aircraft once promised to Qatar to other airlines.

Airbus A321neo taking off
Airbus may have been hoping to reallocate the popular A321neos to fulfil its other orders | ©Wikimedia Commons

The companies have been at odds for months, wrapped up in a legal battle revolving around surface flaws on A350s, some of which are now grounded by Qatar after concerns were raised over safety. A subsequent $600 million dollar lawsuit was raised by the airline against the manufacturer.

Airbus acknowledges quality problems

Airbus has acknowledged problems relating to quality control of A350 manufacturing but goes on to accuse Qatar of falsely portraying these issues as safety-related in an attempt to gain more compensation.

Last month, the dispute escalated when Airbus revoked a deal with Qatar for 50 A321neos, pointing to its refusal to accept the previously purchased A350s subsequently triggering a legal clause that connected the two plane orders.

A lawyer for Qatar Airways, Philip Shepherd, condemned the decision at a hearing earlier this week:

“They took the risk and knew it would be absolutely incendiary. We have paid $330m for this (A321neo) contract so far, and they knew it was a hand grenade being thrown into our bunker.”

More time needed, says Airbus

Guillaume Faury, Airbus’ Chief Executive, said on Thursday that the company had been forced to cancel the specific order to “exercise our rights”, but later expanded in an interview with BFM TV that they were hoping for an amicable solution – “it takes time”.

In the meantime, Qatar Airways is expecting to seek a ruling to preserve the A321neo deal while Airbus is preparing counterclaims in the A350 case. The manufacturer cancelled two out of 23 A350s currently on order for the airline but has agreed not to reallocate the aircraft for the time being.

Airbus or Qatar – who’s at fault? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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