Qatar Airways claims that Airbus has thus far refused to negotiate a good-faith settlement regarding alleged safety defects in the protective paint used on A350 aircraft.
Qatar Airways has accused Airbus of acting like a “bully,” citing the company’s refusal to negotiate a settlement in British court.
According to Reuters, the Middle-Eastern airline and Airbus are likely heeded to a three-month trial, tentatively expected to commence next summer.
In a ruling, a United Kingdom-based judge informed the London High Court that there was an outstanding “public interest” in the outcome of the dispute, which has led Qatar Airways to raise safety concerns about the more than two dozen grounded A350 long-haul jetliners.
The lawsuit suggests that Airbus’s protective paint skin contains dangerous flaws.
Airbus has previously acknowledged that Qatar Airways’ jets, along with planes owned by other carriers, have suffered unexpected erosion to painted surfaces and a layer of lightning protection.
However, Airbus insists—with the backing of European air travel authorities—that its aircraft remain safe for continued use.
Nevertheless, Judge David Waksman backed the airline, saying the case needs to be resolved as soon as possible.
“I am in absolutely no doubt that this case should be tried as soon as practically possible,” Waksman said.
Despite ruling in favor of the airline’s request for an expedited trial, Waksman rejected Qatar’s request to break the trial into two separate pats.
Qatar Airways had earlier suggested that a lengthier, two-part trial would allow its technicians more time to analyze the safe contingencies of the faulty paint.
Airbus, meanwhile, claims that it has already performed its own investigation.
Waksman’s procedural ruling will allow Airbus to trigger payment clauses as more planes are built.
It will also be allowed to proceed with plans to sell the A350s Qatar rejected to other global carriers, including Air India.
In the meantime, Waksman has encouraged Qatar Airways and Airbus to initiate a serious “period of reflection” between now and next June, when the trial could commence.
“At the moment,” Waksman said, “this case looks unsettleable—that might change.”
Waksman further opined the “legal circus” threatening to tear apart one of commercial aviation’s closest partnerships.
“The costs for both sides are way over the top in my judgment,” he said. “There is far too much time that is being spent here.”
Airbus Chief Executive Guillaume Faury earlier told reporters in France that the manufacturer is in constant discussions with Qatar Airways.
“We have this situation to resolve and it takes time,” Faury said. “It takes time and sweat, and I’m very frustrated to be in this situation.”
“I don’t like this situation with customers, that’s very clear,” he added. “That’s why we’re trying to work out a solution moving forward. But it’s difficult.”