In newly published court documents, Qatar Airways has claimed that a serious paint defect that has resulted in the airline grounding at least 21 of its Airbus A350 aircraft could pose a risk of the fuel tanks igniting.
European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has denied any suggestion that the paint defect, which has resulted in paint bubbling, cracking and peeling away from sections of the fuselage, is an airworthiness issue and has rejected a claim by Qatar Airways for at least $618 million in compensation.
The European Air Safety Agency (EASA) which is responsible for certifying the A350 appears to agree with Airbus over the airworthiness of the plane and see’s no reason to ground aircraft that have suffered paint issues.
Qatar Airways and its national regulator views the issue differently and believes the paint damage could affect a special layer of metal mesh that protects the aircraft from lightning strikes.
In the latest documents seen by Bloomberg, Qatar Airways says there is particular concern about damage to the lighting protection layer on the wings because that is where the fuel tanks are.
The issue has resulted in a bitter falling out between what was once two of the closest companies in the airline industry. Qatar Airways is pursuing legal action in London’s High Court with an expedited trial set to begin in April, Airbus rejects outright the safety claims.
In an apparent retaliatory move, Airbus has cancelled a separate $6 billion order for 50 A321neo jets that Qatar Airways has been expecting. The A321neo aircraft have proved incredibly popular across the airline industry and has forced Qatar to seek a similar deal with Boeing for its less favoured 737MAX planes.
Airbus says it was legally allowed to cancel the order because Qatar Airways broke the contract by refusing to take delivery of two A350 until Airbus establish the “root cause” of the paint defect.
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.