Airbus relaunches Qatar Airways order following paint dispute settlement

LONDON—Airbus EADSY 2.36%

SE has agreed to revive orders for nearly 75 planes from Qatar Airways after reaching an agreement with the Middle Eastern carrier over a long-running dispute over paint peeling on its wide-body A350 models.

An Airbus spokesman said it will now deliver 50 narrow-body A321s and the remaining 23 twin-aisle A350s previously ordered by Qatar.

The orders had been dropped amid a growing multibillion-dollar legal battle over the paint issue, which the airline said could pose a safety concern. Airbus has repeatedly denied these allegations.

Airbus and Qatar Airways said in a joint statement earlier on Wednesday that they had reached an “amicable and mutually acceptable settlement” regarding the legal dispute. The companies did not disclose details of the settlement, except to say the agreement did not constitute an admission of liability by either party. A program to repair the degradation of Qatar’s current fleet is underway, the companies added.

Qatar Airways had previously grounded 29 of its A350 planes and refused new deliveries over the issue, slashing capacity amid increased travel to Doha for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The airline said the peeling paint exposed the meshed copper sheet designed to protect the aircraft from lightning strikes.

This led to Qatar Airways taking legal action against Airbus in London, in which the carrier had sought damages in part due to the impact on its operations of not being able to use the aircraft. A possible trial was scheduled for later this year.

While the paint problem has also affected other A350s in service with other Airbus customers, only Qatar Airways had taken the decision to unilaterally ground the aircraft. Airbus and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, which oversees the planemaker based in Toulouse, France, insisted the problem was only cosmetic.

The situation had led to a wide fallout between Airbus and one of its biggest customers. In August, Airbus ended all new business with Qatar Airways, canceling contracts valued at more than $13 billion at the latest available list prices and before steep discounts that aircraft manufacturers typically give customers.

After Airbus canceled a deal to sell Qatar Airways 50 of its A321 planes, the Gulf carrier ordered up to 50 from rival Boeing Co.

737 MAX 10 single-aisle aircraft within two weeks. Qatar Airways had previously canceled most of an existing MAX order in 2020 after receiving five of the planes.

Airbus lawyers have alleged that Qatar Airways had exaggerated concerns about it in a bid to seek compensation and deny delivery of planes it did not need as the pandemic hit demand for air travel. The aircraft manufacturer complained in court that the airline and its regulator, the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority, had failed to provide documentation showing the technical justifications for grounding the aircraft.

Qatar Airways said it provided images of the damage, which it said showed the scale of the problem and the potential safety risk.

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker has long had a reputation as a picky customer, publicly lashing out at Airbus and Boeing when he perceived delivery or quality issues.

Write to Benjamin Katz at

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