The seismic news that Airbus and Qatar Airways had finally settled their long-running dispute over paint cracks quickly made the rounds throughout the aviation community on February 1, 2023.
One of the consequences of this peace deal is the fact that Airbus will be able to resume aircraft deliveries to Qatar Airways in the near future.
This solves a problem for both companies. For Airbus, it recovers one of its largest customers and a key player in one of the hottest aircraft markets in the world. For Qatar Airways, it means that it will be able to get back, not without some delays, to its original fleet growth plan, which had been disrupted by this conflict.
Airbus had unilaterally cancelled the remainder of Qatar Airways’ A350 order (19 aircraft that were intended to join the 53 of the type the airline was already operating). In addition, an order for 50 A321 single-aisle aircraft was also cancelled.
These cancellations were later upheld by a UK court, forcing Qatar Airways to seek an alternative in Boeing’s B737 MAX.
In July 2022 Qatar Airways announced at the Farnborough Air Show that it was ordering 25 Boeing 737-10 MAX (plus 25 options), the largest of the MAX family, capable of carrying 220 passengers.
Qatar Airways had already signed a memorandum of understanding with Boeing in the previous January to add MAX aircraft to its fleet. However, this agreement had reportedly expired by the time the Boeing order was finally confirmed. The relationship between Qatar Airways and Airbus had soured significantly by that time, with a legal battle being prepared at London’s High Court.
This was not the first time Qatar Airways ordered the MAX. Back in 2016, the airline had placed a 60-strong order for Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft, although those airplanes were, at the time, destined for its Air Italy subsidiary. Only a handful of these had been delivered by the time the Italian airline went out of business in early 2020. Qatar Airways then cancelled the rest of the order.
With bridges mended now between Airbus and Qatar Airways and the 50 A321neos unlocked (although not arriving until 2026 at the earliest), it is unclear whether the Middle Eastern airline will stick to the Boeing order or, as some analysts have pointed out, it may try to swap it for other aircraft types, such as the B787 or B777.
It is also not clear whether Qatar Airways will place new orders in the near future with the European manufacturer.