For more than two decades, Airbus SE and Qatar Airways have been locked in a tumultuous relationship. The Gulf airline’s chief executive officer, Akbar Al Baker, has always relished a good fight, ridiculing the plane maker’s managers in public or refusing to take aircraft because of a perceived defect. Each time, Airbus endured the torment because the carrier is among its best customers, with billions of dollars’ worth of planes on order.
Now the two are airing their grievances in public once again—only this time Airbus is fighting back. The companies are facing off in court in a high-stakes showdown that’s being closely watched in the industry, because it stands to redefine the relationship between manufacturers and airlines.