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Qatar Airways-Airbus paint row set for trial

A dispute between Qatar Airways and Airbus over protective paint on some aircraft is set for a trial next year after a High Court judge said there was public interest in the case.

The Gulf carrier has questioned the safety of around 24 grounded A350 long-haul aircraft over flaws in their protective skin.

Airbus has acknowledged these and other aircraft are suffering erosion to the painted surface and a layer of lightning protection. The company insists they are safe with the backing of European regulators, despite Qatar Airways refusal to take more deliveries.

Judge David Waksman, backing the airline’s call for a speedy trial, said: “I am in absolutely no doubt that this case should be tried as soon as is practically possible.” 

However, he rejected a bid by the airline to split the trial into two parts to allow Airbus to perform a deeper technical analysis, something the manufacturer says it has already done.

The judge also refused to order Airbus to stop formally trying to deliver more A350s to Qatar Airways, or to refrain from re-selling undelivered aircraft, while the dispute continues.

The procedural ruling means Airbus is free to attempt to trigger payment clauses as more aircraft are built. It can also try to sell A350s that Qatar Airways has rejected to carriers like Air India, which industry sources say could step in as a buyer, Reuters reported.

Qatar Airways is suing Airbus for $1 billion in damages for the grounded aircraft while Airbus has counter-sued for the return of millions of dollars of credits when aircraft were sold and accused the carrier of refusing to take them in an effort to tackle overcapacity. 

 Qatar Airways said in a statement: “Qatar Airways is pleased with the judgement given by the High Court today. 

“We entered into this process to secure an expedited trial and early disclosure from Airbus that will give us an insight into the true nature of surface degradation affecting the A350s. 

“We are extremely pleased to have secured these in today’s judgement. We will finally be able assess the cause of the damage to our aircraft and the expedited trial will provide a swift resolution of this unprecedented dispute. 

“Our commitment to the safety and security of our passengers and crew, remains at the core of everything we do.”

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