Airbus, Boeing facing ground turbulences with GCC airlines

Issues at stake ranging from delivery delays to safety concerns
Airbus, Boeing facing ground turbulences with GCC airlines
Aircraft landing

Two of the world’s top aircraft manufacturers have been wrangling with 2 GCC airlines, Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways, over a number of issues, ranging from delivery delays to safety issues.

A third, Kuwait Airways, found a way back in into a deal, but the road leading to it was marred by accusations of bribes laid against the planemaker.

Emirates Airlines


According to Reuters, Dubai’s Emirates Airlines could cancel an order

for Boeing 777X passenger jets if the model’s entry into service slips beyond the end of 2023, quoting the airline’s president as saying. “Honestly, if it goes beyond 2023, and it goes on for another year, we probably cancel the program,” Tim Clark told industry publication AirlineRatings.

Reuters says industry data places Emirates airlines as the world’s largest international carrier and the largest user of wide-body jets.

“The aircraft was originally designed for delivery in April 2020; it’s now 2024 if we are lucky. You’ve now got a four-year delay with the program. If they got another year on it, we are going to question if this is fit for purpose or not.”

A safety crisis that is spilling over from the 737 MAX autopilot crashes that took place between 2018 and 2019, is delaying the upgrade and creating additional scrutiny and certification delays.

However, Clark also criticized a separate issue of production delays of the 787, of which Emirates has 30 on order. “The total of 30 787s in there look very marginal now as they are so far behind in production,” he was quoted as saying by AirlineRatings.

Qatar Airways


Qatar Airways has asked a UK court to reinstate an order for 50 Airbus A321neo passenger jets that the European planemaker revoked as part of a bitter dispute over the partial grounding of larger A350s, according to Reuters, naming a recent court filing.

Should the court not approve the reinstating of the order, Qatar Airways will ask to award the airline unquantified damages over the plane maker’s decision to withdraw what it described as a “unique” plane as it prepares to receive the 220-seat A321neo from February next year.

Months-old contractual disagreements between the two parties have strained the relationship to an all-time low with the dispute being around the erosion to the painted surface and gaps in lightning protection on A350 jets.

Qatar airline authorities have stopped flying 21 of its 53 A350s after these safety concerns emerged and this led to Qatar Airlines going to court and asking for over $600 million.

Reuters said Airbus has admitted to quality problems but reproached the airline for branding them as safety issues in order to receive compensation.

Airbus last month canceled the order for A321neos, saying Qatar had breached a clause linking the two deals. Days later, Qatar placed a provisional order for at least 25 aircraft competing with the Boeing 737 MAX.

Airbus insisted in preliminary hearings that the A350 is safe to fly and claimed its own interests could be damaged if it were forced to go ahead and build the A321neos while waiting for the outcome of a potentially long dispute.

Kuwait Airways


Kuwait Airways recently announced an expanded $6 billion deal with Airbus for 31 planes, restructuring an agreement reached in 2014.

The initial order was marred by allegations of kickbacks and strained the relations between the airline and the manufacturer.

According to AFP, “negotiations took place against the backdrop of bribery allegations that cost Airbus billions of dollars in settlement fees in other countries in 2020.”

“We have managed to agree on a monumental restructuring that will position Kuwait Airways in a much stronger place to succeed for the next 15 years,” company chairman Ali Al-Dukhan told a recent news conference.

The new $6 billion agreement supplements 3 new aircraft to the existing order of 28, includes nine Airbus A320neo, six A321neo, three A321neoLR, four A330-800neo, seven A330-900neo, and two A350-900.

Al-Dukhan said the deal will provide the airline greater flexibility following the devastating effect COVID-19 exacted on the travel industry.

Prior to the latest negotiations, “40 percent of the deal’s value had already been paid and the delivery had started,” Al-Dukhan said.

Kuwait Airways had initially ordered 15 Airbus A320neo and 10 A350 in 2014, with delivery beginning in 2019, according to AFP.

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