Qatar Airways Loses Airbus A321neo Legal Battle

Qatar Airways Loses Airbus A321neo Legal Battle

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Qatar Airways has lost a legal battle with Airbus, allowing Airbus not to sell planes to Qatar Airways. This is bad news for those of us who like flying Qatar Airways, and good news for any airline that’s looking to move forward some Airbus delivery slots…

Airbus and Qatar Airways have been engaged in a $600+ million legal dispute, which initially revolved around the Airbus A350. Specifically, Qatar Airways has grounded much of its A350 fleet, arguing that the fuselage surface is degrading at an accelerated rate. Airbus, meanwhile, has argued that these issues are cosmetic.

This has caused relations between the airline and aircraft manufacturer to sour significantly, to the point that in January 2022, Airbus decided to terminate its agreement to sell Qatar Airways A321neos. Airbus was able to do this because Qatar Airways refused to take delivery of A350s, putting Qatar Airways into default on new planes (according to Airbus).

In February 2022, a UK judge ordered Airbus to delay any practical impact of the decision to revoke the Airbus A321neo order. This prevented Airbus from allocating these early delivery slots to other airlines. Rather Airbus would have to wait until a court hearing took place this month, as Qatar Airways sought an injunction to reinstate the contract.

The Airbus & Qatar Airways dispute started with the A350

Judge denies Qatar Airways’ A321neo request

There’s an update today regarding this court case. Reuters is reporting that a UK judge has dismissed Qatar Airways’ A321neo claims, meaning that Airbus doesn’t have to sell these jets to Qatar Airways. Airbus is now free to allocate these planes to other airlines (and I imagine there will be quite some interest).

Of course in theory it’s possible that Airbus and Qatar Airways somehow reconcile, but there’s no reason to believe this is the case.

Airbus now has some spare A321neo delivery slots

What this means for Qatar Airways’ narrow body fleet

The international commercial aircraft manufacturing industry is a bit of a duopoly (if we leave regional jets out of the equation), with just Airbus and Boeing. With Airbus no longer doing business with Qatar Airways, that means the Doha-based airline is stuck with Boeing.

In January 2022, Qatar Airways placed an order for up to 50 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, including 25 confirmed orders and 25 options. This was clearly intended to replace the A321neo order, given Qatar Airways’ lack of options.

Qatar Airways currently operates a fleet of 32 Airbus A320s and A321s, which are expected to be retired in the next couple of years.

While Qatar Airways’ new 737 MAXs should represent a nice improvement over current generation aircraft, in my opinion the A321neo is a superior plane to the 737 MAX:

  • From a passenger comfort standpoint, I prefer the A321neo to the 737 MAX
  • The A321neo is a much more versatile aircraft, especially in terms of range, with the A321LR variant offering extra range, and the A321XLR variant (coming in 2023) offering even more range
  • With Qatar Airways currently having Airbus narrow body aircraft, it would have been a much easier transition maintaining an Airbus fleet
Qatar Airways has ordered Boeing 737 MAXs

Bottom line

Qatar Airways has lost its legal battle with Airbus involving the A321neo. Qatar Airways terminated its contract to sell A321neos to Qatar Airways earlier this year, but the airline tried to block that. A judge has now thrown out Qatar Airways’ case.

I suppose anything is still possible, and maybe Qatar Airways and Airbus can reconcile. If not, Qatar Airways will be stuck with the Boeing 737 MAX.

What do you make of this Qatar Airways & Airbus development?

Conversations (38)
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  1. Mike Dendo Guest

    What do you mean stuck with Boeing? Real bad choice of words ans shows prejudice towards Boeing.

    1. Alby Guest

      I didn’t interpret that comment in that way. Seems like you’re overthinking it. How would you have worded it?

    2. Watson Gold

      Prejudice towards the company that sold a defective aircraft?! Heavens to Betsy!

  2. Chris okeke Guest

    Qatar airways should step down from their high horse and mend fences with Airbus.
    This is business , not war!

  3. Steven E Guest

    Finally Akbar Al Baker hasn’t played his cards right this time -oops

  4. Tony Guest

    "Qatar Airways terminated its contract to sell A321neos to Qatar Airways earlier this year" bit of a typo there i see

  5. Jordan Gold

    There is NO WAY Airbus investors will allow this to continue for much longer. Airbus is not open to being held hostage by carriers, since it's not good for business.

    Airbus and Qatar WILL make up at some point soon! Too many tens of billions on the table.

    1. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      QR is not a privately-held entity, and Airbus is the literally winner here.... so what exactly is there for "investors" to not allow? If anything, Airbus' shareholders should be happy with the legal precedent set here, and the fact that QR's ownership (i.e. Qatari government) pushed too far, and is now forced to eat crow.

    2. CB Guest

      hmm, the article's mention of delivery timelines implies that Airbus has more demand than it can currently meet. So, the kiss-and-make-up might not be as "some point soon" as one might think.

  6. RF Diamond

    Bold move by Airbus to punish Qatar when they are in the wrong.

    1. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      ...."they" being Qatar, unless you totally missed the under-oath ruling here.

  7. Donna Diamond

    Frankly, the current range of the narrow body fleets of both Airbus and Boeing are fine with me. Extended range for narrow bodies offers no “comfort” for me given that the wide body options are preferable. I’m not interested in Transatlantic flights in extended range narrow body aircraft. As for the comfort differences between the A321 and B737 in the front, they escape me. As for Qatar, they clearly overplayed their hand and lost, at least for the moment.

    1. Max Guest

      Mine is wider and longer - muuuuh.

      Try a Gulfstream G650 or Dassault Falcon-10X. Better than even Etiahd Residences on A380 despite being not 'wide'.

      Sweatpants of low-class-gangsta-rap-peasants are wide. My Armani suit on the other hand is tailored to sleekly fit my body proportions.

    2. David Guest

      You fly Gulfstream G650 all the time, that’s nice. Why are you on a miles and points blog again?

    3. Max Guest

      It was just an analogy to show that cabin width doesn’t matter for comfort.

  8. Sam Guest

    Completely agree with @Evan!
    Please stop using “comfort”.
    I will never prefer to be in a narrow body for any flight over 3.5 hours.
    Seating and seats are determined by the airline NOT manufacturers.

    1. Max Guest

      Airbus A320 series is wider than Boeing 737 series, meaning airlines do generally have more space to work with. Especially for shoulder width it makes a great impact.
      Also air conditioning (higher pressure and humidity) and soundproofing on A320 series is way superior to Boeing's 737 series.
      These advantages are the same no matter the individual airline configuration.

    2. N1120A Guest

      The difference in width is negligible and is usually either eaten up by a slightly wider aisle or 1 CM of extra width in a seat.

    3. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      And yet, you just contradicted yourself with your own nonsense at the end. What difference is there in being in a 3x3 narrowbody versus a 3x4x3 B777? If you're tempted to say "shoulder height!" or "headroom," you'd be incorrect for the the seats on the wall.

  9. Endre Guest

    AAB should call Russia and order some of their high-tech SSJs.

    1. Max Guest

      These can no longer be built/supported with the current sanctions. And even then, an older third-hand A320/B737 will still be better.

    2. Endre Guest

      But Russia allegedly said they will start production of an all-Russian SSJ version with Russian engines and little to no Western parts. Well, I read it on airliners(.)net, not sure how true this is.

    3. CB Guest

      yeah, with no microprocessors, LOL.

    4. Eve Guest

      SSJs never met the performance capabilities or load factor of B737/A320, there is no way it will serve Qatar’s intended use of carrying out more flights to MENA and South East Asia, including key markets like India, where demands are very high with 100% occupancy almost every flight. At the same time SSJs have a very high amount of maintenance irregularities, one Aeroflot exec once said they had to ground multiple SSJ for everyone one...

      SSJs never met the performance capabilities or load factor of B737/A320, there is no way it will serve Qatar’s intended use of carrying out more flights to MENA and South East Asia, including key markets like India, where demands are very high with 100% occupancy almost every flight. At the same time SSJs have a very high amount of maintenance irregularities, one Aeroflot exec once said they had to ground multiple SSJ for everyone one they operated because they would have various issues with several of them. I tried to fly Aeroflot SSJ last year from Kazan to Moscow two times as part of my bucket list plan, both times there was equipment change to an A320, even though the flight wasn’t quite empty. So that about says how much SSJ are useful

  10. Evan Guest

    I've sat in first and coach on both these aircraft. I can tell you there is minimal difference in "comfort". In the end, these are flying metal tubes in the sky. Fuel efficiency/versatility I'll give you, but let's move on from this comfort thing. It's becoming way overblown.

  11. Charles Guest

    Who needs Airbus or Boeing these days?? There's a new big boy coming up! ILYUSHIN... In fact, a little birdy told me that Qatar Airways is negotiating with them right now to replace the A321 neo's and A350's

    1. Max Guest

      Tupolev's TU-154 might have a comeback...

  12. Mohamed Guest

    Of course it's a duopoly, Airbus & boeing is doing whatever they like hecause no other third party is involved in competition,
    Also Airbus has lost a big customer like Qatat airways by using a (likeky European court) against an Arab customer

    1. ChrisGVA Guest

      What you are talking about ?
      Stop to dream and educate yourself.

      UK juridiction is the one who manage the intl conflict with planes manufacturers.

  13. AJ09 Guest

    As an Australian I wish the best for Qatar. They kept Australia connected when Qantas abandoned Australian citizens overseas for two years. Stranded Aussies will never forget this.

    1. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      Bullshit. The public has the memory of a goldfish. One good fare sale, and EK will be right back in the thick of things down there.

  14. TJaved Guest

    Obviously Qatar Airways has not chosen its battles wisely.

  15. Tim Dunn Diamond

    Qatar Airways never learned the major life lesson to never burn the bridges you might have to walk across in the future.

  16. Thom Casa Guest

    Qatar has always been a difficult client with both Airbus and Boeing complaining privately of Akbar’s difficult demands. Funny how it’s only Qatar who have grounded the 350

    1. MoJoe Diamond

      Akbar Al Baker went over-the-top to be a PITA to Airbus in the A350 dispute, so it's not entirely surprising Airbus management decided to cut bait with Qatar Airways, which was essentially the nuclear option. AAB tried to win on all fronts by getting great deals on Airbus (A350, A321, etc.) airplanes yet also suing publicly and loudly for damages on the A350. Airbus execs undoubtedly did some math and figured AAB/Qatar had moved from...

      Akbar Al Baker went over-the-top to be a PITA to Airbus in the A350 dispute, so it's not entirely surprising Airbus management decided to cut bait with Qatar Airways, which was essentially the nuclear option. AAB tried to win on all fronts by getting great deals on Airbus (A350, A321, etc.) airplanes yet also suing publicly and loudly for damages on the A350. Airbus execs undoubtedly did some math and figured AAB/Qatar had moved from being a large/marquee but low-profit customer to being an unprofitable, hell-raising customer before pulling the plug.

      In other words, AAB played hardball one too many times and finally saw his straws break the camel's back.

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ChrisGVA Guest

What you are talking about ? Stop to dream and educate yourself. UK juridiction is the one who manage the intl conflict with planes manufacturers.

3
Tim Dunn Diamond

Qatar Airways never learned the major life lesson to never burn the bridges you might have to walk across in the future.

3
Steven E Guest

Finally Akbar Al Baker hasn’t played his cards right this time -oops

2
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