Qatar Airways calls Airbus’ decision ‘a matter of considerable regret and frustration’ amid a paint dispute.
Airbus has canceled a $ 6 billion contract with Qatar Airways for 50 of its new A321 neo-passenger aircraft, escalating a legal battle between the two companies over paint on the recently delivered A350s.
Qatar Airways called Airbus’ decision announced on Friday “a matter of considerable regret and frustration”.
Airbus was taken to court by Qatar Airways in London in December, after a series of alleged problems with the Airbus A350 aircraft.
The airline complained that the paint on the recently delivered Airbus A350s cracked and peeled, exposing copper mesh used to insulate the aircraft from lightning.
It seeks more than $ 600 million as compensation after the affected aircraft – 21 of its 53 A350 jets – grounded and claimed the paint issue was a safety risk.
The agreement was allegedly worth $ 6.35 billion when it was finalized in December 2017.
Qatar Airways posted a video on social media on Friday of the stained exterior of based A350 jets that, according to the airline, highlighted “serious and legal safety issues”.
The European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency has independently assessed the issue and found no safety issues.
“There is no reasonable or rational basis” for Qatari regulators to ground the A350s operated by Qatar Airways, Airbus said in documents prepared for a London court hearing on Thursday.
It accused Qatar Airways of inciting the grounding as it was in its own financial interest to keep the aircraft on the ground in view of the coronavirus pandemic collapse in demand for air travel.
Qatar Airways rejected the claims in a statement on Friday.
“These defects are not superficial and one of the defects causes the aircraft’s lightning protection system to be exposed and damaged,” it said. “We continue to urge Airbus to conduct a satisfactory causal analysis into the cause of the defects.”
An investigation by Reuters news agency showed that at least five other airlines have reported A350 paint or skin defects since 2016, long before Qatar expressed concern in November 2020 when an attempt to paint a jet in World Cup delivery killed about 980 defects exposed.
Airbus said it was looking at changing the design of anti-lightning rods for future A350s, but insisted there was adequate lightning protection. It says Qatar is undermining global protocols by seeking leverage over security.