Airbus has terminated a multi-billion-dollar contract with Qatar Airways for 50 of its new A321neo aircraft, escalating a legal battle between the two companies over paint on the recently delivered A350s.

“We confirm we did terminate the contract for 50 A321s with Qatar Airways in accordance with our rights,” an Airbus spokesman said.

The canceled deal was made a decade ago and at the time was worth $4.6 billion at catalogue prices.

In December, Airbus was sued by Qatar Airways in London over a series of alleged problems with Airbus A350 aircraft.

The airline complained the paint on the recently delivered Airbus A350s was cracking and peeling, exposing copper meshing used to insulate the aircraft against lightning strike.

Qatar Airways A350 paint
© Reuters

Airbus says the issue poses no air safety problems.

“These defects are not superficial and one of the defects causes the aircraft’s lightning protection system to be exposed and damaged,” Airbus said in a statement. “We continue to urge Airbus to undertake a satisfactory root cause analysis into the cause of the defects.”

The company said it cancelled the A321neo orders because Qatar Airways failed its contractual obligations by refusing to take deliveries of A350 planes.

A new hearing is scheduled for the week of April 26.