On February 1, 2023, the aviation industry was rocked by the seismic news that Airbus and Qatar Airways had finally resolved their protracted battle over paint flaws.
One of the effects of this peace agreement is that Airbus will soon be free to resume delivering aircraft to Qatar Airways.
For both businesses, this fixes an issue. Regaining one of its biggest clients and a significant player in one of the most competitive airplane markets in the world benefits Airbus. It means that Qatar Airways will be free to resume its original fleet expansion plan, which had been hampered by this crisis, albeit with some delays.
The remaining portion of Qatar Airways’ A350 deal had been unilaterally canceled by Airbus (19 aircraft that were intended to join the 53 of the type the airline was already operating). The purchase of 50 single-aisle A321 aircraft was also canceled.
Later, a UK court affirmed these cancellations, forcing Qatar Airways to look for a replacement in Boeing’s B737 MAX.
Qatar Airways made the announcement that it was acquiring 25 Boeing 737-10 MAX aircraft (with 25 further options) in July 2022 at the Farnborough Air Show. This aircraft is the largest in the MAX family and has a capacity for 220 passengers.
To add MAX aircraft to its fleet, Qatar Airways and Boeing had previously inked a memorandum of understanding in January of the previous year. When the Boeing order was finally confirmed, this agreement supposedly had already ended.
By that point, relations between Qatar Airways and Airbus had substantially deteriorated, and a legal dispute was being prepared before the High Court of London.
The MAX had previously been ordered by Qatar Airways. Although the aircraft were initially slated for its Air Italy affiliate, the airline had placed a 60-strong order for Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft back in 2016.
When the Italian airline closed its doors in early 2020, just a small number of them had been delivered. Later, Qatar Airways canceled the remainder of the order.
It is unclear whether Qatar Airways will stick to the Boeing order or, as some analysts have pointed out, it may try to switch it for other aircraft types, such as the B787 or B777.
With the bridges between Airbus and Qatar Airways now repaired and the 50 A321neos unlocked (although not arriving until 2026 at the earliest), it is also unclear whether the Middle Eastern airline will cancel the Boeing order.
Furthermore, it’s unclear if Qatar Airways would give the European supplier any fresh orders very soon.