Qatar Airways has sparred with lawyers representing European aircraft manufacturer Airbus in a London courtroom over claims that both parties colluded with their respective regulators concerning the safety of the A350 aircraft.
The Doha-based airline is pursuing a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit against Airbus in London’s High Court because it has been forced to ground 21 of its A350s for safety reasons on the orders of the Qatari aviation regulator.
Airbus admits that there are manufacturing issues with the A350 which causes the outer layer of paint on parts of the fuselage and wings to crack, bubble and even peel away. But Airbus says the unsightly issue doesn’t pose a safety risk and the European aviation safety regulator agrees.
Although the full trial isn’t expected to go ahead until next June, lawyers from both parties were back at the High Court this week after a lengthy discovery process where both sides have accessed a trove of thousands of documents.
Lawyers from Qatar Airways have suggested that Airbus colluded with the European Air Safety Agency (EASA). Reuters reported that Qatar Airways claims: “Airbus sought to, and appears to have succeeded, in exerting its influence over EASA.”
Its primary evidence for this extraordinary claim was that Airbus shared a so-called ‘Line to Take’ document with EASA which is a public relations document with main talking points on the paint defect issue.
Airbus says sharing this document was routine and EASA admits that it “coordinated” with the aircraft manufacturer and even shared its own ‘Line to Take’ document.
But while lawyers acting on behalf of Qatar Airways “casually hint at collusion” between Airbus and EASA, the plane manufacturer says the airline has done little to explain its relationship with Qatar’s Civil Aviation Agency which ordered the aircraft grounding.
The QCAA has ordered aircraft to be grounded despite reassurance from Airbus and EASA that the planes are safe to fly. The QCAA has publicly commented on the matter, but Qatar Airways insists the planes can’t fly until a root cause for the paint defect has been established.
Other airlines have reported similar paint defects but have not grounded these aircraft.
The legal battle resulted in Airbus unilaterally cancelling an order of 9 remaining A350-1000 aircraft worth an estimated $6.74 billion at list price earlier this year.
An earlier version of this article stated that two of the grounded A350 aircraft had been put back into service after being repainted. This was not accurate, and the two aircraft identified by Airbus had only received minor paint touch-ups and were never grounded by the QCAA.
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.