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Qatar Airways wins UK court battle with aircraft seat maker

Qatar Airways Qatar Airways
Business Class seats in Qatar Airways
  • Italy’s Optimares sued airline after it terminated a contract to buy seats
  • Firm must reimburse Qatar Airways upwards of $2m and costs

A British court has ruled in favour of Qatar Airways in a dispute between the Gulf carrier and an Italian aircraft seat manufacturer. 

Sezze-based Optimares had sued Qatar Airways after the airline terminated a contract to buy made-to-order business and economy class seats for some of the Doha-based airline’s Boeing and Airbus aircraft. 

But a British court earlier this month rejected Optimares’ claim and ordered the Italian firm to reimburse Qatar Airways $1.2 million, plus a further $746,000.

However, the court rejected Qatar Airways’ request for another repayment of $970,000. 

Optimares must also play $2.27m towards Qatar Airways’ costs. The airline had claimed legal fees of $4.7m, but a court ruling described these as “somewhat excessive”. 

In 2018 and 2019 the two parties signed purchase agreements for the aircraft seats that included work Optimares had already completed as part of the planned retrofits. 

“While the terms of the Purchase Agreements are clearly favourable to Qatar Airways, who no doubt had the whip hand in the negotiations, they were nonetheless subject to some negotiation between the parties,” the judgment states. 

“It is clear that Optimares was keen to enter into the Purchase Agreements and made the choice to contract on the terms that it did.”

The dispute centred upon the terms of the purchase agreements after Qatar Airways scrapped their deal in March 2020. 

Optimares claimed it had run up millions of euros in costs in designing and building the seats and was “on the cusp” of delivering some when the airline terminated the contracts. 

A day prior to Qatar Airways ditching the deal, Optimares served notices of “excusable delay”, citing the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which was ripping through Italy at that time. 

Person, Human, Clothing
Qatar Airways. Picture: Oneworld Alliance

Optimares said it was forced to halt work due to a government-imposed lockdown that had also caused some of its own suppliers to declare force majeure. 

Although Qatar Airways disputed Optimares’ account, the judgment says such details are irrelevant anyway due to the “clear terms” of the contracts that entitle the airline to act as it did. 

A Qatar Airways spokesperson told AGBI: “Qatar Airways made every effort to settle this matter out of court. We were therefore disappointed when Optimares decided to issue and pursue these proceedings and we are pleased that the court decided in our favour. The terms and conditions we negotiated were always clear. 

“No matter the value of the claim, this judgment proves that a contract struck between parties must stand up in court. Optimares must now reimburse us upwards of $2 million and costs.”

Optimares declined to comment on whether it plans to appeal the ruling. 

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