The UK’s high court has denied a request by Qatar Airways to prevent the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus from terminating its contract for building single-aisle, short-haul A321neo jetliners.

Following this preliminary ruling by the count, Airbus is now free to market the aircraft, which was originally intended for Qatar Airways, to other potential customers, reported The Guardian.

This comes as the two entities are locked in a dispute, which has lasted 16 months so far, over safety aspects of the larger A350 jet.

Qatar Airways has claimed that the quality of paint on the aircraft poses safety issues in the wake of a lightning strike, however, the aircraft maker claims it is a maintenance issue.

Qatar’s state-owned flag carrier has grounded 23 of its A350 aircraft and sought compensation of close to $1bn from Airbus.

In January, Airbus revoked a $6bn contract for 50 A321neo aircraft in response to Qatar Airways’ refusal to take A350s, reported The Financial Times.

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Airbus stated that it welcomed the ‘court’s decision in recognising Airbus’s position that a transparent and trustful cooperation is essential in our industry’.

It also added: “The litigation is about the misrepresentation on the safety and airworthiness of the A350, which we will continue to defend, as well as the reputation of its operators and the rules governing aviation safety in the face of unjustified claims.”

Arguing there was no equivalent substitute for the A321neo jets, Qatar Airways had sought an injunction from the British judge to stop the Toulouse-based aircraft manufacturer from cancelling the contract.

However, the London’s High Court judge dismissed this request and added that Qatar Airways was ‘well able to source’ alternative aircraft for the anticipated shortfall.

Qatar Airways could either tap lease jets or place a separate order for Boeing 737 Max planes to make up the shortfall.

An initial delivery of A321neos was expected in Q4 2023.

The court also ordered Qatar Airways to pay 90% of Airbus’ legal costs, with an interim payment of £260,000 to be completed in the next two weeks.

Qatar Airways has not commented.