Qatar Airways has been ordered by its regulator to ground 13 of its Airbus A350 jets due to the aircraft’s body deteriorating faster than expected.
The company will remove the wide-body jets from service until it has defined the “root cause” and can establish a solution for its safe return to the skies.
In a statement released on Thursday, Qatar said it has taken action to return its A330 fleet into service while the groundings will impact normal operations.
The Doha-based carrier’s chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, said, “We sincerely expect that Airbus treats this matter with the proper attention that it requires.
“Qatar Airways will not accept anything other than aircraft that continue to offer its customers the highest possible standard of safety and the best travel experience that they deserve.”
He added the airline will work with its regulator and the planemaker to correct the issue before taking delivery of any more A350s.
A spokesperson told Reuters Airbus was in talks with its customer, but this issue was confidential and declined to comment further.
Qatar said it would be co-operating with all leasing companies affected by the groundings that have inspected their impacted aircraft.
The grounding follows continuous disputes beginning in June as Qatar halted its deliveries of the jet due to issues with the fuselage, discovered under the paint.
“A condition in which the surface below the paint on some of its Airbus A350 aircraft has been degrading at an accelerated rate,” a spokesperson from Qatar told Reuters.
Original reports alluded that the dispute was over a dodgy paint job, but was settled by Al Baker who disclosed it was over quality control.
An anonymous source told the Financial Times the planemaker had been investigating its A350 fleet previously, resulting in inspections from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.
“It was demonstrated that there is no airworthiness impact on the fleet, allowing for continued operations,” the source said. “No additional inspections are required beyond existing scheduled maintenance.”
Qatar Airways is one of Airbus’ most prominent customers, with 53 A350s in its fleet out of 76 on order, according to Planespotters.
The airline follows behind the highest buyer, Singapore Airlines who operates 56 of the aircraft.
Other customers of the wide-body are Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Ethiopian Airlines, Finnair, Delta Airlines, Vietnam Airlines, Air China, China Airlines, and others who operate less.
While numerous airlines operate the aircraft, Qatar has reported the most recent issues alone.