Qatar Airways has taken delivery of its first A350-1000 aircraft following a high-profile legal spat with the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus over a paint and surface defect that grounded dozens of the Doha-based carrier’s A350s.
On Friday night, an A350-1000, which is registered as A7-ANT, departed Airbus headquarters in Toulouse bound for Doha, marking the official resumption of deliveries – the first A350-100 delivered new to Qatar Airways since December 2020.
The aircraft actually recorded its first flight in November 2021 but has been sitting on the ground in the South of France for the past year and a half waiting for the dispute to be resolved.
At one point, Airbus tore up the order with Qatar Airways for its remaining 23 A350s and was prepared to find a new buyer, although the two sides eventually reached an “amicable” settlement in February after initially pursuing a high-risk multi-billion-dollar lawsuit in London’s High Court.
Reports of a disagreement between Qatar Airways and Airbus first emerged in May 2021 when airline CEO Akbar Al Baker said a “serious issue” had been discovered with some A350s.
It soon transpired that paint had been found to be cracking, bubbling and peeling off parts of the fuselage and exposing a fine layer of mesh that acted as protection against lightning strikes.
Qatar Airways soon discovered the issue on as many as 30 A350s and grounded the aircraft, allegedly at the behest of the national aviation regulator, fearing that the paint defect could pose a serious safety issue.
Airbus maintained throughout that while unsightly, the defect wasn’t in itself a safety issue. The exact details of the settlement have been kept under wraps, but Qatar Airways had demanded a long-term solution to address the root cause.
The nasty legal spat had threatened to derail Qatar Airways’ ambitious growth plans after Airbus not only tore up the order for the remaining A350s but also a massive order for single-aisle A320 series aircraft.
Qatar Airways had turned to Boeing to plug the gap with 737MAX jets, but Airbus has since reinstated the orders. The airline has, however, partially lost its place in a long delivery queue, and the first of 50 A321neo aircraft won’t now be delivered until 2026.
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.