| 20 April 2024, Saturday |

Qatar Airways sues Airbus in A350 jet damage dispute

Qatar Airways announced on Monday that it has filed a lawsuit in the United Kingdom against planemaker Airbus alleging skin faults on A350 passenger planes, moving the two parties closer to a rare judicial battle over aviation safety.

The firms have been at odds for months about damage to a sub-layer of lightning protection, including blistered paint and corrosion, which Qatar Airways claims has resulted in the suspension of 21 A350 planes by its local regulator.

Despite some “surface deterioration,” Airbus claims that the carbon-composite passenger planes are safe to fly, but Qatar Airways argues it is too early to judge whether safety has been affected.

Last week, Airbus accused the Gulf airline of portraying the problem as a safety concern, threatening to seek an independent legal examination in what experts described as an unusual action.

Qatar Airways retaliated on Monday, announcing that it has moved its lawsuit against Airbus to the High Court in London.

“We have regretfully failed in all of our endeavors to establish a constructive solution with Airbus in connection to the accelerated surface deterioration problem that is negatively harming the Airbus A350 aircraft,” the company stated in a statement. “As a result, Qatar Airways has no choice except to seek a speedy settlement of this matter through the courts.”

In a statement late on Monday, Airbus confirmed it had received a formal legal claim. “Airbus intends to vigorously defend its position,” it said.

A spokesman earlier reiterated it had found the cause of the problem and was working with customers and Europe’s safety regulator, which has said it has not identified a safety issue.

Qatar Airways denies that the surface flaws – which witnesses say have left some of the jets with a pock-marked appearance – are properly understood and said on Monday that it wanted Airbus to mount a “thorough investigation”.


Several industry executives said such a public legal fight between two of aviation’s leading players is unprecedented.

The row widened this month when documents seen by Reuters revealed at least five other airlines in varying climates had complained about paint or other surface problems since 2016. Airbus had until recently maintained the problem was focused on paint on Qatar’s A350s, based in the Gulf.

Reuters also first reported that Airbus was looking at changing the anti-lightning system.

The planemaker has said it is proposing interim solutions ranging from repairs to repainting and has accused Qatar Airways of ignoring those proposals without reasonable justification.

Qatar Airways reiterated on Monday it could not be sure whether proposed repairs would work without deeper analysis. Its chief executive has questioned why Airbus is still working on a solution if a reliable fix is already available.

The 21 grounded jets represent 40% of its current fleet of A350s, for which it was the launch customer with the biggest order. Other airlines still operate the jet, saying its airworthiness is not affected by what they term cosmetic issues.

The row meanwhile looks set to cost Airbus a bigQatar order for a new A350 freighter version. It received the first firm order for the model on Monday, confirming a previously tentative order for four planes from France’s CMA CGM.

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker told the South China Morning Post last week he had previously looked at placing a large order for the cargo A350. Sources now expect Boeing to win the order to replace Qatar’s 34-35 freighters. 

  • Reuters