Airbus and Qatar Airways clash over regulators and sending emails at London hearing

Airbus and Qatar Airways clash over regulators and sending emails at London hearing

LONDON, Nov 11 (Reuters) – Airbus (AIR.PA) and Qatar Airways clashed on Friday over their dealings with aviation watchdogs and a flood of confidential documents as legal claims over grounded aircraft reached $2 billion.

Filling a large courtroom at London’s High Court, the latest procedural hearing in a high-stakes contract and security dispute worked through the intricate details of “shared drives” and “search terms” as each side was looking for a smoking gun showing pleasant relations with regulators.

“You have to take a shortcut,” Judge David Waksman said after sometimes thorny arguments over how to deal with more than 100,000 documents that could hold the key to a possible trial next year in which the reputations of key players is in play.

The hearing comes after Reuters reported on Thursday that French and Qatari leaders discussed the dispute in December 2021.

Qatar Airways is suing Airbus for damage to the painted surface and underlying lightning arrest system of A350 jets, prompting the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) to ground 29 of the planes over concerns regarding a potential security risk.

Backed by European regulators, the world’s biggest planemaker acknowledges quality flaws in part of the global A350 fleet, but maintains its first long-haul plane is safe.

Qatar Airways said Airbus had sought to exert influence over the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) by providing the agency with a “Line to Take” document. PR experts say this type of document covers talking points to answer media questions and high-level conversations.

“Airbus has sought and appears to have succeeded in exerting its influence over EASA,” the airline told the court.

An Airbus spokesperson said it had followed all relevant procedures, including its decision to inform EASA of its position, “which is completely appropriate and normal”.

An EASA spokesperson said the European agency had “coordinated with Airbus to a limited extent only to ensure technical accuracy” of its own “Line To Take”.


The sharing of talking points appeared in Airbus emails provided to the airline as part of a discovery process.

Airbus argued that while “alluding to collusion” between the aircraft manufacturer and EASA, Qatar Airways had provided very little information in the discovery process about its own contacts with the QCAA.

Instead of providing an analysis of alternative jumbo jets, for example, the airline had submitted photographs of lavatories, Airbus said in a written argument.

Although a seemingly trivial detail, industry sources say toilets are a key part of high-end product comparisons.

Airbus said Qatar Airways “may have conspired or wrongfully conspired” with its regulator to land planes and improve its commercial position, a charge the airline denies.

The groundings triggered fine demands of $200,000 per plane per day. Airbus says the groundings are invalid.

The coordination allegations could determine how far each side must go to provide internal documents in the case, which has already led to the disclosure of unprecedented details about the operation of the $150 billion jet industry. dollars.

Claiming that Airbus tried to get support from EASA, Qatar produced an email from Airbus summarizing a call between technical director Sabine Klauke and EASA boss in July 2021.

“I just had Patrick Ky on the phone…Patrick was fully committed to calling his QCAA counterpart and working with him on how they would help them justify putting the plane back in the air,” Klauke told reporters. colleagues.

An EASA spokesperson said the purpose was only to explain EASA’s position and offer technical support to the QCAA, which declined requests for comment during the dispute.

The independence of regulators around the world has come under intense scrutiny following a 737 MAX safety crisis that sparked widespread concerns about the close ties between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of United States and the aircraft manufacturer Boeing.

Court documents first revealed US involvement in the Airbus-Qatar dispute, after Airbus notified the FAA in December 2021.

An Airbus engineering official wrote in an email that the briefing was “well received” with no particular concerns.

An FAA spokesperson said: “We are aware of the issue and are in contact with EASA, which certifies Airbus aircraft.”

The two sides also fell out over two A350s that Airbus said Qatar was still flying after apparently repainting them.

Qatar Airways said the planes needed only minor paint touches unlike those grounded by its regulator.

Reporting by Tim Hepher; Additional reporting by Andy Mills in Doha and David Shepardson in Washington, DC; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Susan Fenton and Cynthia Osterman

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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