While a standoff between Russia and Ukraine seems unlikely to end anytime soon, a similar kind of scenario is developing between the world’s leading commercial aircraft manufacturer and an airline, both of whom are unwilling to yield any ground.
Qatar Airways and Airbus have been locked in a legal battle for months now with the airline raising safety concerns about A350 jets. The airline has sought a compensation of $618 million, plus $4 million a day, and has also stopped taking delivery of 23 more A350s. It said it was forced to ground 21 of its fleet of 53 Airbus A350s in 1000 and 900 series. Analysts have termed the dispute extremely unusual and believe that if it does not end soon, it would hit Airbus more than Qatar Airways.
Qatar Airways raised concern after an attempt to repaint one of the A350s in soccer World Cup livery, which exposed about 980 defects. It said the paint on one of the A350s had started cracking with the paint peeling off, exposing copper meshing used to insulate the aircraft against lightning strikes. In a press statement, it said it has sought an expedited hearing of a preliminary issue in the High Court in England to address its concerns regarding the surface degradation condition impacting the A350 fleet.
Airbus, however, resisted these charges and said there is “no reasonable or rational basis” for the grounding of the aircraft, pointing out that other customers have not carried out a similar exercise. To show to the world how much it takes such charges seriously, Airbus cancelled a $6 billion contract with Qatar Airways for the delivery of 50 of its new A321 passenger aircraft claiming that the airline’s refusal to take delivery of two more A350s amounted to default and hence it had the right to cancel the order.
In turn, Qatar Airways has said it has placed an order for 50 freighter aircraft with Boeing, the long-time rival of Airbus. More orders could come Boeing’s way if there is no resolution to the crisis soon.