Airbus Fires Back at Qatar Airways on A350 Claims

 - December 9, 2021, 12:51 PM
Qatar Airways has grounded 19 Airbus A350s due to degradation of the airplanes' composite surface below the paint. (Photo: Flickr: Creative Commons (BY-ND) by Florian Klebl)

Airbus on Thursday said it will seek “an independent legal assessment” to resolve its dispute with Qatar Airways over what the manufacturer calls ongoing mischaracterization of surface degradation among the Qatari flag carrier’s A350 fleet. Qatar Airways recently grounded 19 of its 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 on December 15.

Airbus, however, on Thursday 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 recent 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.

“The attempt by this customer to misrepresent this specific topic as an airworthiness issue represents a threat to the international protocols on safety matters,” said Airbus in a statement, without naming Qatar Airways directly.

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.

“In parallel, Airbus is working to re-establish a constructive dialogue with its customer on this matter but is not willing to accept inaccurate statements of this kind to continue.”

Separately, Airbus said it wants to clarify that EASA’s recent proposal for corrective steps prompted by the discovery of areas of missing expanded copper foil (ECF) on the wings of 13 A350s as a result of a production process does not relate to the surface degradation issue. “The limited number of aircraft will be inspected as per EASA’s directive,” it concluded.