Aircraft order terminated in escalation of Airbus-Qatar Airways dispute

Airbus has cancelled a $6 billion order with Qatar Airways for 50 A321neos, escalating a legal dispute between the two companies over paint on the recently delivered A350s.

Qatar Airways described the decision by Airbus on Friday “a matter of considerable regret and frustration”.

Airbus was taken to court in London by Qatar Airways in December, following a series of alleged problems with the A350.

The airline complained that paint on A350s was cracking and peeling, exposing copper meshing used to insulate the aircraft against lightning strike.

It is seeking more than $600 million in compensation after grounding the affected aircraft – 21 of its 53 A350s – claiming the paint issue is a safety risk.

Qatar Airways published a video on social media on Friday of the scarred exterior of A350s that the airline claimed underscored “serious and legitimate safety concerns”.

“There is no reasonable or rational basis” for Qatari regulators to have grounded the A350s operated by Qatar Airways, Airbus said in documents prepared a the London court hearing last Thursday.

It accused Qatar Airways of instigating the grounding as it was in its own financial interest to keep the aircraft on the ground in light of the Covid-19 pandemic collapse in demand for air travel.

Qatar Airways rejected the claims in a statement on Friday.

The airline said: “These defects are not superficial and one of the defects causes the aircraft’s lightning protection system to be exposed and damaged.

“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.

“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.

“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.”

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