Airbus (AIB, Toulouse Blagnac) has accused Qatar Airways (QR, Doha Hamad Int'l) of "seeking to engineer" or "acquiescing in engineering" the grounding of twenty-one A350s without any "real or rational basis", Bloomberg has reported. In a rapidly escalating legal tussle, the manufacturer has also unilaterally cancelled Qatar Airways' order for fifty A321-200neo.

Court documents indicate Airbus claims that Qatar Airways has an economic interest in grounding the aircraft due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also claimed that the airline's refusal to take any more A350-1000s (of which it has 23 on firm order) until fuselage paint degradation issues have been addressed show that it is already in breach of its contractual obligations. Consequently, Airbus said that one of the aircraft of the type would no longer be delivered to the carrier. It therefore reaffirmed its position that it is not liable for any compensation to Qatar Airways.

Broadening the scope of the conflict, Airbus added that it had also terminated Qatar Airways' A321neo order contract. The Gulf carrier confirmed that this was a new development, as, until January 17, the A321neo deal was not part of the dispute. Airbus did not publicly provide the rationale for the move but confirmed the step in a comment to Reuters.

Deliveries of forty A321-200Ns and ten A321-200NX(LR)s to Qatar Airways were due to commence in February 2023 and continue through 2031. Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker has previously said that the A321-200NX(LR)s would be "perfect" for operating some of Qatar Airways' more seasonal routes.

The Qatari airline does not have any other aircraft on order from Airbus. The A321neo are its only new-generation narrowbodies on order after the cancellation of a non-binding Letter of Intent with Boeing (BOE, Washington National) for up to sixty B737-8s.

Qatar Airways sued Airbus in the London High Court, seeking in excess of USD618 million in compensation, in December 2021. The first procedural hearing is scheduled for late April 2022.

The Qatari Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) grounded sixteen out of Qatar Airways' thirty-four A350-900s and five out of its nineteen -1000s in mid-2021, after paint degradation exposed anti-lighting copper wiring on the fuselage. While Airbus has acknowledged the situation, it maintains that it does not affect the aircraft's airworthiness. And while other airlines have reported similar issues with their A350s, no other carrier or regulator has issued a grounding directive for the type.

Despite Airbus's allegations that Qatar Airways does not need the A350s due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline has been wet- and dry-leasing aircraft recently to supplement its in-house fleet.