European aerospace giant Airbus is countersuing Qatar Airways for at least $220 million in an ongoing dispute over a paint defect that is affecting some A350 aircraft belonging to the Doha-based carrier.
The Qatari government-backed airline launched legal action against Airbus in London’s High Court late last year claiming the airframer had failed to establish the root cause of a defect that has caused the paint to peel, crack and bubble on some A350 jets.
Qatar’s civil aviation regulator forced its national carrier to ground 21 of the affected A350’s fearing the paint defect posed an airworthiness issue. Qatar Airways is suing Airbus for a minimum of $618 million for the initial grounding, plus $4 million for every additional day that the planes remain on the ground.
Airbus maintains that the paint defect, while cosmetically bad, doesn’t pose any kind of airworthiness issue and as such there’s no reason why Qatar Airways can’t fly the planes. European air safety regulators also agree with the manufacturer’s assessment.
The counterclaim concerns two brand new A350 jets that are sitting on the ground in Toulouse, France waiting to be delivered to Qatar Airways. The airline has refused to take the planes until Airbus comes up with a permanent solution to the paint defect.
Airbus believes this refusal to take the A350’s has triggered a clause that allows it to cancel a separate order for 50 single-aisle A321 neo jets. The order is worth around $600 million but Airbus is inundated with orders for the planes and could easily find new customers.
Qatar Airways hasn’t been deterred and revealed on Monday that yet another A350 had been grounded over alleged paint quality issues. The airline’s lawyers have already won a temporary injunction against Airbus preventing the manufacturer from selling on the A321neos.
The injunction will remain in force until a full hearing which is slated to take place in April.
Airbus says it is still trying to resolve the escalating row amicably but Qatar Airways said it hadn’t seen any evidence from Airbus to back up this claim.
“It is important to clarify that neither Qatar Airways nor its legal team are aware of any efforts by Airbus to try to resolve the situation in an amicable way,” the airline blasted on Monday. “In fact, the actual situation is to the contrary,” the statement continued.
“Qatar Airways will continue its legal action to seek an order that requires Airbus to fully, properly and transparently investigate the A350 Accelerated Surface Degradation, to establish the conclusive and full root cause of an important condition which is degrading the surface of the aircraft beneath the paint.”
Other operators of A350 jets have experienced similar paint defects but Qatar Airways is the only carrier to have grounded its planes over the issue.
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.