Airbus, Qatar Airways Conflict Escalates with A321neo Order Termination

Issue: 1 / 2022

The first of 50 A321neo was set to be delivered in the second quarter of the year. On January 2022, Qatar Airways said that it is “adhering to all of our obligations under all applicable contracts,” a day after Airbus confirmed it is terminating an order by the airline for 50 A321neos and as the two continue to fight over paint and surface degradation issues on the airline’s fleet of A350s. “It is therefore a matter of considerable regret and frustration that Airbus has taken the apparent decision to escalate this dispute,” the airline wrote in a statement. “We will continue to robustly defend our position in the legal proceedings.” Airbus said in a case filed in the court that it has terminated a Qatar Airways order for 50 A321neos, a highly unusual step. Aircraft manufacturers typically only ever cancel commitments at their end and take aircraft off the backlog when customers default on pre-delivery payments or in cases like airline bankruptcies, where it becomes obvious that a customer will no longer be able to take delivery of aircraft.

According to the Aviation Week Network Fleet Discovery database, the A321neos were to be delivered from the second quarter of 2022 until 2030, meaning that the first aircraft must be well into the assembly process. After the delivery of the first aircraft in 2022, Qatar Airways was scheduled to receive six in 2023 and five in 2024. Given how popular the model is, remarketing the A321neos should not be a problem, even though late configuration changes may cause issues for the first several aircraft. The exact details and reasoning for the cancellation however, remain unclear for now. Airbus confirmed termination of the contract for 50 A321s with Qatar Airways.