Airbus hopes for ‘amicable solution’ in Qatar plane dispute

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Airbus hopes to reach an amicable solution in a row with Qatar Airways over damage to the surface of A350 passenger jets, Chief Executive Guillaume Faury said on Thursday.

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The two companies have been locked in a months-long dispute over paint erosion and deterioration to anti-lightning protection on the long-haul jets, which Airbus has acknowledged need attention while insisting the problems do not put safety at risk.

Qatar Airways has sued Airbus for more than $600 million and is refusing to take delivery of further A350s until its regulator receives formal analysis of the problem.

Airbus, which has said Qatar Airways mischaracterized the flaws and misinterpreted the contract, has revoked contracts for two of the jets and a separate Qatar order for 50 of the planemaker’s A321neo jets.

“We had to make the decision to exercise our rights,” Faury told analysts.

“This decision followed many attempts to find mutually beneficial solutions and we continue to hope for an amicable solution.”

Qatar Airways declined to comment. Both sides have pledged to defend their positions in what is seen as an exceptionally rare public dispute in the secretive planemaking industry.

Experts say Qatar Airways is expected to seek a court ruling that would prevent Airbus from cancelling the A321 deal, though it has also ordered at least 25 competing Boeing 737 MAX jets.

The Airbus decision to revoke the separate contract for the in-demand A321 alarmed some airline executives, including the head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), who issued a warning that planemakers should not exploit market strength.

Airbus has faced reports that it has taken a tough general line on deliveries during the crisis, though its sales chief emphasized at an air show this week that it had worked with airlines to accommodate hundreds of changes to schedules.

“I would like to say as well that for us at Airbus the relationship with our customers is of the utmost importance and we will continue to work hard to service them,” Faury said.

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