Qatar Airways Takes Airbus to Court over A350 Dispute

 - December 20, 2021, 12:59 PM
A Qatar Airways Airbus A350 takes off from Oslo Airport in Gardermoen, Norway, on May 23, 2021. (Photo: Flickr: Creative Commons (BY) by 72JanJ)

Qatar Airways has ramped up its dispute with Airbus over surface degradation in 21 of the airline’s A350s with a filing with the High Court in London, the airline said Monday. The move comes 11 days after Airbus said it would seek “an independent legal assessment” over what it calls Qatar’s mischaracterizations of the issue as an airworthiness concern.

Qatar Airways grounded the 21 Airbus A350s due to what it called an “accelerated” condition affecting the surface of the composite aircraft below the paint, as mandated by the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA). As a result, the national airline plans to “reluctantly” reintroduce to temporary service five of its 10 grounded Airbus A380s due to what it calls a capacity shortage caused by its grounding of A350s. Plans call for the airline to install the superjumbos on “key winter routes,” including London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle airports.

Airbus, however, on December 9 insisted that it thoroughly assessed the surface paint-related findings and that the European Aviation Safety Agency confirmed it presented no airworthiness effect on the A350 fleet.

The rift between Airbus and Qatar Airways climaxed with comments by the airline’s CEO, Akbar Al Baker, indicating that the problem affects A350s flying for other carriers as well and that Airbus has yet to understand the underlying cause.

“We strongly believe that Airbus must undertake a thorough investigation of this condition to conclusively establish its full root cause,” said the airline in a statement Monday. “Without a proper understanding of the root cause of the condition, it is not possible for Qatar Airways to establish whether any proposed repair solution will rectify the underlying condition.”

For its part, Airbus called Qatar’s “misrepresentation” a threat to international safety protocols.

The OEM insisted that it has “worked actively” with customers to minimize the effect of the condition and any inconvenience it might have caused. “These solutions have all been dismissed by the above-mentioned customer without legitimate justification,” it added.