Doha: The head of Qatar Airways on Tuesday accused plane-maker Airbus of acting like a "bully" in the latest escalation of the ongoing dispute between the two entities.
As per reports, the airline and leading plane-maker have been fighting in the British courts for months over the paint problem that saw Qatar Airways ground 23 A350 jets.
The issue began in November 2020, when Qatar Airways discovered that paint was peeling off or missing on a five-year-old A350 jet. The airline also found cracks and damage to the plane's lightning protection.
Qatar Airways then asked Airbus to determine the root cause of the defects. Following an inspection, the airline claimed that Airbus had not provided satisfactory answers to about 980 defects that it had found. On December 20 last year, Qatar Airways sued Airbus in the UK.
Meanwhile, Airbus has maintained that the damage to Qatar Airways' A350s is 'purely cosmetic', and that the airline is rejecting its proposed fixes without good reason.
"If things were settled, we wouldn't be still waiting for the trial to happen next year," Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said at the International Air Transport Association annual general meeting in Doha.
"A manufacturer must never be allowed to use their market dominance to bully their long-standing customer."
Both sides said they hoped to reach a negotiated settlement after their latest hearing in May when a London high court judge agreed to a speeded-up trial schedule.
Last year, the airline grounded part of its fleet of A350s and demanded $200,000 in damages per day for each plane out of action.
Airbus responded by canceling an order worth more than $6 billion for 50 A321s from Qatar Airways, the Middle East's second-biggest carrier and one of its biggest clients.
When asked for a reaction to Baker's comments, Airbus told AFP: "The best solution is a negotiated one and this is what Airbus is seeking."
Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury earlier told reporters the French manufacturer was in discussions "all the time" with Qatar Airways.
"We have this situation to resolve and it takes time. It takes time and sweat, and I'm very frustrated to be in this situation," he said on Sunday.
"I don't like to be in this situation with customers, that's very clear, that's why we're trying to work out a solution moving forward. But it's difficult."