In an escalating dispute with the aircraft manufacturer Airbus, the once courted airline Qatar Airways publicly released a video of a paint defect that has so far grounded 21 of its Airbus A350 aircraft and that the airline claims has caused “cracking in the composite and damage around a high percentage of rivets on the aircraft fuselage”.
Qatar Airways is seeking more than $600 million in compensation from Airbus – the cost of about two A350 aircraft that the airline has refused to take delivery of until the disagreement is settled.
The Doha-based carrier has filed a lawsuit in London’s High Court and on Thursday lawyers acting on behalf of Qatar Airways won the right for an expedited hearing which is currently slated to start in late April.
During the initial hearing, it was revealed that Airbus has cancelled a multi-billion-dollar order to supply Qatar Airways with 50 brand new A321neo aircraft which were due to start being delivered from 2023. The move appears to be in retaliation for the airline’s decision to initiate legal action.
Dismissing Airbus’ insistence that it must take delivery of its A350 aircraft, Qatar Airways said on Friday: “We confirm that we are adhering to all of our obligations under all applicable contracts.”
“It is therefore a matter of considerable regret and frustration that Airbus has taken the apparent decision to expand and escalate this dispute.”
Airbus insists that the paint defect is merely cosmetic and does not raise airworthiness concerns. Europe’s air safety regulator which certified the aircraft agrees with Airbus but Qatar’s civil aviation authority took the unusual step of grounding the affected jets.
Airbus told the court it believed Qatar Airways had “acquiesced” with the national regulator because it was in their economic interest to idle the planes.
“These defects are not superficial and one of the defects causes the aircraft’s lightning protection system to be exposed and damaged, another defect leaves the underlying composite structure exposed to moisture and ultraviolet light,” the airline insisted on Friday.
The airline released a video of peeling and cracking paint on some of its A350’s to support its claims.
Other A350 operators have experienced similar issues but none have taken the decision to ground their planes.
Airbus says it will defend the claim in full.
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 relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.