Over the ongoing dispute between Qatar Airways and Airbus on the Airbus A350 paint degradation issue, Airbus cancelled the order of 50 Airbus A321neos it signed with Qatar Airways. The order was cancelled on January 20 while the pre-trial proceedings took place in British High Court.
The aircraft manufacturer’s move to cancel a separate contract with Qatar Airways for a different aircraft model shows the intensity of dispute between the parties. Airbus confirmed the news of cancellation to an online publication, Simple Flying. Qatar Airways has not responded yet.
Qatar Airways placed the order for Airbus A320neos in 2011, which it later amended to 50 Airbus A321neos in 2017. In 2019, Qatar Airways converted ten aircraft to another aircraft model Airbus A321LR. Overall, the order was estimated at $6.35 billion.
Airbus-Qatar Airways A350 surface degradation issue
Airbus A350 paint degradation issue began in January 2021. The aircraft model is blamed for damages such as blistered paint, fractured window frames and erosion of lightning protective layers. The planes have a coating of copper mesh under the paint to keep lightning from damaging the carbon-composite fuselage, which is lighter but less conductive than traditional metal.
After an order from Qatar’s Civil Aviation Authority, Qatar Airways grounded 21 of its Airbus A350 flights. It also halted the deliveries of the outstanding A350 aircraft. Airbus called the issue ‘cosmetic’ and announced that it would not cause any safety issues for the passengers. However, Qatar Airways blames Airbus for failing to submit a valid root-cause study citing the reasons.
Airbus further resumed seeking legal proceedings against Qatar Airways, harnessing its reputation over a ‘cosmetic’ issue. Qatar Airways escalated the issue after filing a lawsuit in the UK High Court. The airline sought $618 million in damages from Airbus for partial grounding and an additional $4 million each day the planes are out of operation. The procedural hearing on the case is scheduled in London during April 2022.
Besides Qatar Airways, five other airlines had discovered similar surface defects in Airbus A350 aircraft. Qatar is the only country that has grounded some of the Airbus A350 jets. Airbus has formed an internal task group and looks into a new anti-lightning design for future A350 planes.