LONDON (Reuters) -Qatar Airways accused planemaker Airbus on Thursday of moving the goalposts in a safety and contractual dispute by raising the allowable limit for surface damage to the A350 jetliner.
The two sides have been locked in a high-profile dispute over damage to the anti-lightning mesh within the painted skin of the A350 that Qatar says has forced it to ground jets.
“That is simply making the goal smaller at their end, half way through the game,” Qatar Airways’ lawyer Philip Shepherd told a London court hearing, of what he said was a move by Airbus to increase a limit on how much damage is allowed.
An Airbus spokesman said Qatar’s comment was a “misrepresentation of the facts”. The planemaker also told the court in a filing that relations with the Gulf carrier had “seriously broken down”.
Qatar Airways was in court to seek the extension of an order preventing the planemaker from revoking a contract for A321neo airliners in retaliation for Qatar’s refusal to take delivery of more A350s.
“One would certainly not want to be sitting under a roof in that condition,” Shepherd said of the damage.
Airbus has said the observed damage is nowhere close to the 40% of missing mesh that would be needed to cause a safety problem, citing the plane’s backup protections.
Airbus said in a court filing that Qatar Airways had an economic interest in unnecessarily grounding A350 jets to seek compensation and make up for weak demand. Qatar Airways insists it is short of capacity ahead of the FIFA World Cup.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; editing by Kate Holton)