Airbus and Qatar Airways have settled a bitter dispute over flaking paint on the European plane maker’s A350 wide-body jets, averting a potentially damaging and costly court trial in the UK this year.
The aerospace group and Qatar, one of its largest customers, said on Wednesday that they had reached an “amicable and mutually agreeable” settlement and would discontinue their respective legal claims.
The settlement agreement is “not an admission of liability for either party”, they added in a joint statement, noting that a “repair project” is under way to get the affected aircraft back into the air.
Under the terms of the settlement, Airbus said it will now go ahead with deliveries of 50 A321 single-aisle aircraft and 23 outstanding A350 jets previously ordered by Qatar.
The A350s will start to be delivered from this year, while the A321s will be handed over from 2026, Airbus confirmed.
Airbus and Qatar have spent more than a year embroiled in the highly unusual public dispute over surface degradation on the A350 jets purchased by the Gulf carrier, which first complained about the issue in 2020.
Qatar had sent an A350 jet to Ireland to be painted in a livery for the 2022 football World Cup in the Gulf state. Some abnormalities were found under the original paint when it was stripped off ahead of the application of the new colour scheme.
While Airbus admitted the quality flaws, it consistently denied there were any design issues and insisted that the jets were safe, a decision that was backed by the EU Aviation Safety Agency.
The dispute escalated when Qatar’s local aviation regulator grounded several of its 53-strong fleet and sought compensation from Airbus. Qatar began legal action in London’s High Court in December 2021.
When the Gulf airline refused to take delivery of four A350 jets, the European plane maker in January 2022 scrapped a $6bn order for 50 of its popular A321neo aircraft. Airbus argued that the airline’s refusal to accept the A350 planes gave it the right to cancel other contracts with Qatar.
The dispute, which is estimated to have cost both sides significant sums in legal fees, was watched closely by the industry. Aircraft makers will usually try to avoid a court battle with a major airline at all costs.