UK judge orders Airbus to delay cancelling Qatar Airways plane deliveries
A UK judge has ordered plane manufacturer Airbus to delay any practical effects of a decision to revoke a $6bn jet order from Qatar Airways for several weeks as the feud between the two aviation players deepens.
The judgement forces Airbus from giving valuable early delivery slots for the in-demand A321neo plane to other airlines, pending an early April hearing where Qatar Airways plans to seek an injunction to reinstate the contract.
The two sides have been clashing for several months about surface flaws on A350s, with some already grounded by Qatar over safety concerns as its airline sues Airbus for $600m.
Airbus acknowledges quality problems but accuses Qatar Airways of mislabelling them as a safety issue to secure compensation.
The row deepened further in January when Airbus revoked a deal with Qatar for 50 A321neos, saying its refusal to take the disputed A350s triggered a clause linking the two plane deals.
Qatar Airways condemned the decision on Friday during a hearing.
"They took the risk and knew it would be absolutely incendiary," Qatar Airways lawyer Philip Shepherd said.
"We have paid $330m for this [A321neo] contract so far, and they knew it was a hand grenade being thrown into our bunker."
Bitter legal battle
The technical hearing gave an insight into the bitter legal battle between the two sides as Qatar prepares its request for an injunction in early April and a court date on the main A350 dispute for 26 April.
The judge also denied a request by Airbus for more time to prepare and ordered the company not to do anything in the meantime that might jeopardise its ability to fulfil the A321neo deal if Qatar wins that part of the case.
Airbus's lawyer, Rosalind Phelps, said the cancelled planes had been removed from its industrial plans and warned of damage to its supply chains if further restrictions were imposed.
Airbus is preparing counterclaims in the A350 case and has cancelled two out of 23 A350s on order for Qatar, but it has agreed not to look for alternative buyers.