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Qatar is adding the Boeing 737 MAX to its fleet amid an ongoing dispute with Airbus that has ‘destroyed’ the relationship between the carrier and planemaker

Rendering of a Qatar Airways Boeing 737 MAX 10.

Qatar Airways

  • Qatar Airways has purchased up to 50 Boeing 737 MAX jets a week after Airbus canceled the carrier’s order for 50 A321s.
  • The order will increase the airline’s loyalty to Boeing as an ongoing legal battle ensues between Qatar and Airbus.
  • Qatar and Airbus have been battling for months over surface paint issues on the carrier’s A350s.

Qatar Airways announced recently the purchase of up to 50 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft on Monday, just a week after Airbus canceled the carrier’s order for 50 A321 jets.

Qatar and Airbus have been in a war of words for months over surface paint issues on the airline’s A350 planes. Since August, Qatar grounded 21 of the jets due to airworthiness concerns; however, Airbus has pushed back on the carrier’s claims, citing the issues are simply “cosmetic.” The response prompted Qatar to sue the planemaker in a London High Court in December and demand $618 million in damages. 

Soon after the court filing, Airbus canceled the carrier’s $6.35 billion order for 50 A321 jets, which is a rare move in the airline industry. Now, Qatar has taken a jab at Airbus by committing to purchasing 25 Boeing 737 MAX 10 planes, with the option to acquire 25 more.

The ongoing legal battle has created significant tension between Airbus and Qatar, which, for a long time, was one of the manufacturer’s biggest customers. According to its website, Qatar has 110 Airbus planes in its fleet, compared to 94 Boeing aircraft. The airline’s MAX order will make Boeing aircraft the plurality, tipping the scales in favor of the American planemaker.

In fact, Qatar will be the launch customer for Boeing’s brand new cargo plane, the 777-8F, which will compete with Airbus’ A350F.

Qatar Airways 777-8F rendering.Qatar Airways 777-8F rendering.

Qatar Airways

“Today marks a great day in the ever-building and strong relationship between Qatar Airways and Boeing,” Qatar CEO Akbar Al Baker said in a press release. “We certainly push Boeing hard to deliver upon our expectations, and the team at Boeing consistently strives to meet and exceed our expectations, giving the opportunity for us to be here today to launch the most significant new freighter aircraft for a generation.”

Qatar’s decision to purchase the MAX further exacerbates its dispute with Airbus. Al Baker told the South China Morning Post in December that the planemaker has “destroyed” the relationship with Qatar, which was the launch customer for the A350-1000 aircraft.

Despite the claims, Airbus has held firm in its perspective that the surface paint issues do not pose a safety risk.

“The attempt by this customer to misrepresent this specific topic as an airworthiness issue represents a threat to the international protocols on safety matters,” Airbus said in a statement in December.

Qatar posted a video of the paint damage to its social media on January 21 in response to the canceled order, saying Airbus’ decision is “a matter of considerable regret and frustration.”

Screenshot of surface paint issues on Qatar's A350 aircraft from a full video showing the defects.Screenshot of surface paint issues on Qatar’s A350 aircraft from a full video showing the defects.

Qatar Airways

According to research conducted by Reuters, at least six other airlines, including Finnair, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Lufthansa, Delta Air Lines, and Air France, have reported surface paint issues on their A350s, though none have said there is a safety concern nor have they grounded the jet. The findings were also confirmed by Europe’s aviation safety regulator, according to Airbus.

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