Two industry sources said Airbus had revoked its outstanding order from Qatar Airways for A350 jets, severing all-new jetliner business with the Gulf carrier in a dramatic new twist to a dispute clouding World Cup preparations. There was no immediate comment from Airbus or Qatar Airways.
The two aviation titans have been waging a rare public battle for months over the deteriorating condition of more than 20 long-range jets, which the airline says could pose a risk to passengers, and Airbus is perfectly safe.
Backed by European regulators, Airbus has acknowledged quality problems on the jets but denied any safety risk from gaps in the protective sub-layer, saying there is ample backup.
Until now, the dispute has had a piecemeal effect on the order book for Europe’s biggest twin-engined jet as first Airbus, then Qatar Airways terminated some individual jets.
However, Airbus has told the airline it is striking the rest of the A350 deal from its books, the sources said, asking not to be identified as discussions remain confidential.
In end-June, the European planemaker had outstanding orders from Qatar Airways for 19 of the most giant version of the jet, the 350-passenger A350-1000, worth at least $7 billion at catalogue prices or closer to $3 billion after typical industry discounts.
Airbus’ shares were up 0.41% at 1401 GMT, having halved earlier gains.
Airbus has argued that the airline is using the dispute to bolster its finances and reduce its fleet of costly long-haul jets as its target long-haul market recovers sluggishly.
Qatar Airways, which posted its first annual profit since 2017, maintains it needs more capacity for the World Cup, forcing it to lease planes and bring less efficient A380s out of retirement to plug a gap left by grounded A350s.
The row centres on whether the A350’s problems – including what appears to be damage to parts of the wings, tail and hull according to two jets seen by Reuters – stem from a cosmetic issue or, as the airline claims, a design defect.
A Reuters investigation in November revealed that several other airlines had found surface damage since 2016, the second year of A350 operations, prompting Airbus to accelerate studies of an alternative mesh that also saves weight.