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Qatar Airways, Airbus want billion-dollar paintwork battle settled out of court

DOHA (AFP): Qatar Airways and Airbus both said they wanted to settle a bitter billion dollar dispute out of court after the latest hearing Thursday in which each side claimed victory.

The airline and leading plane maker have been fighting in the British courts for months over peeling paint on 23 A350 jets which have been grounded.

A London high court judge agreed Thursday to the airline’s demand for a speeded up trial schedule but refused to order Airbus to stop trying to resell jets intended for Qatar Airways to other airlines whilst they wait for a final ruling.

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker, in a rare public comment on the case, told reporters in Doha: “Every partnership has disputes and I just hope that this dispute could be resolved outside the courts of law.”

The airline, which is demanding about $1 billion in damages, said in a statement that it was “pleased” that the latest judgement called for an “expedited trial” and more details on the peeling paintwork that it has said is a threat to the A350’s lightning conductor.

“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.”

Airbus, which is counter-claiming for damages and has retaliated by suspending a $6 billion deal with Qatar Airways for 50 A321 planes, welcomed the judge’s refusal of the airline’s demand for the case to be split in two.

“The matter can now proceed with all due speed to focus on the main topic of the misrepresentation by Qatar Airways of safety and airworthiness of the A350 – which we will continue to defend,” Airbus said in a statement.

But it also called for renewed efforts outside of court.

“Airbus continues to favour engagement and an amicable solution to resolve the dispute. The continued litigation is not in the interests of either party,” it added.

Qatar Airways launched legal action last year seeking damages and a full inquiry into the defective surface.

Airbus insists it has fully accounted for the peeling paint and the European Aviation Safety Agency has said there is no threat to the A350’s airworthiness.

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