Airbus disputes that the paint issue affects safety but Qatar Airways says that the Qatari regulator insisted it grounded affected aircraft.
The dispute seems to be turning more bitter by the day with Qatar Airways filing legal action in UK courts. Airbus though says that there was no need for the aircraft to be grounded and suggests the Qatari regulator acted inappropriately.
In response to the legal allegation, Airbus says that Qatar Airways “sought to engineer or has acquiesced” with the regulator to ground the aircraft which would make it eligible for compensation and negate the financial impact of aircraft being grounded during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The bottom line is that Airbus is clearly suggesting the airline has acted dishonestly which is likely the reason that the airframer cancelled the order.
In response, Qatar Airways said: Qatar Airways, through the legal proceedings against Airbus in the Technology & Construction division of the High Court in England, sought an expedited hearing of a preliminary issue to address our serious and legitimate safety concerns regarding the surface degradation condition adversely impacting our Airbus A350 fleet which has resulted so far in 21 Airbus A350 aircraft being grounded. As this video clearly shows [below], these defects are not superficial and one of the defects causes the aircraft’s lightning protection system to be exposed and damaged, another defect leaves the underlying composite structure exposed to moisture and ultraviolet light, and other defects include cracking in the composite and damage around a high percentage of rivets on the aircraft fuselage. We welcome the decision of the court to expedite this issue and order a hearing in April in an effort to bring about a more rapid resolution to the dispute.
“We continue to strongly believe that Airbus must undertake a thorough investigation of this condition to conclusively establish its full root cause in order to establish whether any proposed repair solution will rectify the underlying condition and ensure no risk to the continued airworthiness of the aircraft.
“Qatar Airways’ number one priority remains the safety of its passengers and crew. For this reason, all affected aircraft remain grounded, and we are unable to accept delivery of further aircraft tendered for delivery by Airbus. Airbus has responded by seeking to cancel an entirely separate contract for the delivery of 50 A321 Neo aircraft. We confirm that we are adhering to all of our obligations under all applicable contracts. It is therefore a matter of considerable regret and frustration that Airbus has taken the apparent decision to expand and escalate this dispute. We continue to urge Airbus to undertake a satisfactory root cause analysis into the cause of the defects, as it is required to do. Qatar Airways remains prepared to help with the root cause analysis however it can. In the meantime, we will continue to robustly defend our position in the legal proceedings.“