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Airbus and Qatar Airways’ ‘amicable settlement’ over A350 dispute signals new growth trajectory

The settlement ends a $2 billion row over the safety of the long-haul jets and a potentially damaging court trial.

[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

After an 18-month-long dispute, Airbus and Qatar Airways have come to a settlement over grounded A350 jets, averting a potentially damaging court trial. 

The “mutually agreeable settlement” ends a $2 billion row over the safety of long-haul jets. The unprecedented rift led to Airbus’ withdrawal of billions of dollars worth of jet deals from Qatar, and prompted Qatar to increase purchases from Boeing. 

Qatar Airways grounded Airbus A350s over what it described as fuselages “degrading at an accelerated rate” in the long-range aircraft. The disagreement has focused on the design of modern carbon-fiber jets, which do not interact as smoothly with paint as traditional metal ones and shed light on industrial methods. 

The canceled orders for 23 undelivered A350 aircraft and 50 smaller A321neos have been restored under the new deal, which is also expected to see Airbus pay several hundred million dollars to the Gulf carrier while winning a reprieve from other claims.

As per the settlement, Qatar will get the in-demand A321neos needed to plan its growth, albeit three years later than expected, in 2026. Airbus’ decision to revoke that order, separate from the disputed A350 contract, had been criticized by the International Air Transport Association.

The settlement is also expected to end the clock ticking on a claim for grounding compensation growing by $6 million a day, triggered by a clause agreed upon after repainting a jet for the World Cup revealed significant surface damage.