Qatar Airways has been given a deadline of 13 weeks to produce correspondence between itself and the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) relating to the grounding of the Airbus A350. Qatar Airways has always maintained that the QCAA has forced its hand on the A350 issue, revoking Airworthiness Review Certificates on 22 aircraft and effectively grounding them from operations.

No correspondence is ‘absurd’

A $2 billion legal battle between Airbus and Qatar Airways has been ongoing for months, as the two dispute whether the paint degradation on the surface of some A350s is a safety issue. Yesterday’s court hearing was the latest installment of the ongoing row, and saw revelations from Airbus that some design changes had already been implemented on the aircraft.

But of more interest was the opinion of the judge in his closing statement, where he summed up the day’s proceedings with some damning comments. Of particular concern is Qatar Airways’ ongoing omission of any evidence of communication between themselves and the QCAA.

Qatar Airways, Airbus A350, Paint Damage

Photo: Qatar Airways via YouTube

According to notes from the case shared with Simple Flying, Judge David Waksman expressed frustration that, despite repeated requests for Qatar to produce this information, still nothing was forthcoming, saying that the idea that there was no communication between the QCAA and Qatar Airways was ‘absurd’.

Judge Waksman is not a person to freely use the term ‘absurd’ but has used it at least three times in this case. The judge went on to demand that evidence of this correspondence be presented by Qatar Airways by April 21st – the date that the two sides are set to meet next in London.

Eyes turn to Al Baker

Judge Waksman further noted the absence of Qatar’s CEO Akbar Al Baker at the trial, and the lack of any evidence from the executive. He added,

“I reject the contention that Mr Al Baker has only been peripheral in this issue.”

He continued,

“One of the points which has been made on instructions today by Mr Shepherd is that Mr Al Baker says that minutes were rarely minuted. Well, if that’s the case, one is tempted to ask rhetorically why on earth has Mr Al Baker not produced a witness statement even limited to this question of disclosure about things that are minuted or not? … Mr Al Baker appears not to wish to engage at all in this case, whether as a matter of substance or on matters of disclosure, where he may be able to assist.”

Qatar Airways Airbus A350-1041A7-ANN

Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Sources told Simple Flying that, back in 2021, months before the A350 issues became a legal dispute, lawyers advised the Qatar Airways team not to write anything down, because it would, eventually, end up in court. Since then, the Qataris have been repeatedly asked to present evidence to back up nine separate elements of their case, but have always found reason not to arrive in court with the required documents to hand.

Now, it sounds like Waksman has had enough. He demanded that either the evidence be presented on April 21st, or that a witness statement from Al Baker be submitted stating that no evidence exists. Without evidence to back up their arguments, the Qataris now face elements of their claim being struck out or, ultimately, the entire case being thrown out of court. Waksman concluded,

“If those gaps [in the evidence] remain and cannot be explained, especially as Mr Al Baker apparently is not giving evidence, then they [Airbus] will make an application that I should draw an adverse inference, either in relation to his absence or in relation to documentary absence, and there is very well-developed case law as far as that goes.”

Information sharing

Throughout the Qatar-Airbus dispute, there have been logjams over the extent to which email and other records should be shared ahead of and during the trial. Just yesterday, Qatar’s legal representative accused Airbus of blocking the release of some data that could be pertinent to the case. Last year, the planemaker was accused of influencing EASA on the case via a ‘line to take’ informational document.

But that river flows two ways, and the Qatari airline has not been overly forthcoming with its own documentation and correspondence, despite requests from the court. The issue of the QCAA grounding the 22 Airbus aircraft has been fundamental to Qatar’s case, and it seems bizarre that the airline wouldn’t want to share evidence corroborating this claim.

Qatar Airways Airbus A350-1041 A7-ANJ (1)

Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying

The QCAA was fingered early on in the process as the root cause for Qatar Airways to stop flying the jets. In a release from February last year, the airline said,

Qatar Airways regrets to advise that its regulator, the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA), has now revoked the Airworthiness Review Certificate in respect of an additional A350 aircraft resulting in a total of twenty-two (22) Airbus A350 aircraft now grounded

The QCAA will not allow these aircraft to return to service until a full and conclusive root cause analysis has been completed, the impact on continuing airworthiness has been established, and a solution been found to permanently correct the root cause and repair the damage. The safety of passengers and crew remains the highest priority for Qatar Airways and therefore the airline fully supports the decision of the QCAA.

Surely the regulator notified Qatar of this order not to fly its airplanes, whether by email or written correspondence. And if so, wouldn’t it be in Qatar’s interest to share said information with the court?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


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