PARIS, February 1 (Reuters) – Airbus (AIR.PA) and Qatar Airways have settled a dispute over grounded A350 planes, the companies announced on Wednesday, avoiding a potentially damaging lawsuit in the UK after a blistering 18-month dispute that tore the global jet market apart.
The “amicable and mutually acceptable settlement” ends a $2 billion dispute over surface damage to long-haul aircraft. The spat led to the withdrawal of multibillion-dollar aircraft contracts by Airbus and prompted Qatar to increase its purchases from Boeing.
Canceled orders for 23 undelivered A350s and 50 smaller A321neos have been reinstated under the new deal, which is also expected to see Airbus pay several hundred million dollars to the Gulf carrier, while securing a reprieve for others complaints.
Financial details were not made public.
The companies said neither admitted liability. Both pledged to drop the claims and “move forward and work together as partners.”
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The deal ends what amounted to an unprecedented public divorce trial between heavyweights in the normally tight-knit, secretive $150 billion aviation industry.
The two sides had racked up combined claims and counterclaims worth about $2 billion before the June trial.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire welcomed the deal, which follows growing political involvement amid close ties between France, where Airbus is based, and Qatar.
“This is the culmination of major joint efforts. This is great news for the French aerospace industry,” he said.
Airbus shares closed 1% higher ahead of the announcement.
Qatar Airways had taken the unusual step of publicly challenging the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer over safety after paint cracks revealed gaps in a lightning protection undercoat on its new A350 carbon composite jets. generation.
Airbus had acknowledged quality flaws but, backed by European regulators, insisted the planes were safe and accused the airline of exaggerating the flaws for compensation.
Supported by a growing army of lawyers, the two sides bickered repeatedly during preliminary hearings over access to documents, to the growing frustration of a judge forced to order cooperation.
Analysts said the deal would make both sides feel vindicated, with Qatar Airways getting damages and acknowledging that the problem was outside the manual and therefore required further repair, and Airbus sticking to its guns. matter of safety and spared the difficult task of finding a home for canceled A350s.
Qatar will get the much-requested A321neos needed to plan for growth, albeit three years later than expected, in 2026. Airbus’ decision to revoke this order, separate from the disputed A350 contract, had been criticized by global airline group IATA .
Airbus said it did its best to avoid pushing Qatar too far down the queue, although some experts question whether it could have kept to the earlier schedule due to supply issues.
The settlement is also expected to stop the countdown to a ground compensation claim that had risen to $6 million a day, triggered by a clause agreed after the paint job of a World Cup jet revealed d major surface damage.
Originally valued at $200,000 per day per aircraft, Airbus’ notional liability increased by a total of $250,000 per hour for 30 jets – or $2 billion per year – at the time the agreement was concluded, based on court records. Neither side has commented on the details of the settlement.
Airbus said it would now work with the airline and regulators to provide the necessary “repair solution” and return Qatar’s 30 grounded planes to service.
Confirmation of a settlement came after Reuters reported a deal could arrive as early as Wednesday. In 2021, a Reuters investigation found that other airlines had been affected by the A350’s skin breakdown, all of which said it was “cosmetic”.
The dispute drew attention to the design of modern carbon fiber jets, which do not interact with paint as well as traditional metal jets, and shed light on industrial methods.
Additional reporting by Leigh Thomas, Michel Rose Editing by David Goodman, Diane Craft and Gerry Doyle
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