The chief executive of Doha-based Qatar Airways has threatened to stop taking deliveries of Airbus planes in a dispute with the European aircraft manufacturer that Akbar Al Baker described as a “serious issue” without elaborating. Sources, however, claim Qatar Airways has kicked up a stink over the paint job of a single A350 plane that is due to be delivered to the carrier.
“If we are not able to settle that serious issue we have with them, we will refuse to take any aircraft from them,” Al Baker told Bloomberg during an interview on Monday.
Al Baker refused to say what the issue actually was but said that if it wasn’t resolved it could jeopardise Airbus’ relationships with other carriers that Qatar Airways has a stake in – these include the IAG Group that owns British Airways and LATAM of Latin America.
A spokesperson for Airbus said the manufacturer wasn’t permitted to comment due to legal reasons. “We are in constant talks with our customers. The content of these discussions we keep confidential,” the Toulouse-based aerospace giant said.
Industry sources cited by Reuters said the issue was to with the paint job on an Airbus A350 that was due for delivery to the Persian Gulf carrier. Qatar Airways has 23 A350-1000’s still be delivered out of a total order of 42 of the widebody jets. Each plane is said to be worth $366 million at list price.
The airline also has an outstanding order for 50 single-aisle A321neo aircraft.
Known for its scrupulous attention to detail, this isn’t the first time that the Qatari flag carrier has refused to take an aircraft delivery from Airbus amidst quality control issues. In 2017, the airline rejected four A350-900 jets worth over $1 billion because of rumoured quality control and cabin specification issues.
Rather than requesting the issues to be fixed, Qatar Airways simply cancelled its order for the four planes altogether. Interestingly, the decision came just a month after Qatar was hit by a Saudi-led blockade that seriously jeopardised the airline’s growth plans.
On this occasion, the issue has arisen as the aviation industry continues to battle through the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, Qatar Airways demanded a delay to its delivery schedule of new jets from both Airbus and rival manufacturer Boeing.
After months of intense negotiation, Al Baker said he had reached a deal with Airbus to delay the delivery of some aircraft. Al Baker had threatened to permanently cease business with the aircraft manufacturers if they didn’t “oblige” his demands.
Despite saying the airline wouldn’t take delivery of any new planes in either 2020 or 2021, Airbus delivered three brand new A350 aircraft to Qatar Airways in a single day last October.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.