world of aviation logo

Qatar is not the only airline to report A350 cosmetic defects

written by Isabella Richards | November 30, 2021

(Australian Aviation archives)

Qatar Airways has had ongoing disputes with Airbus over cosmetic defects on its widebody A350 aircraft, but the matter is not isolated as airlines across the globe have also reported similar issues.

According to a private maintenance messaging board used by operators of the aircraft seen by Reuters, at least five other carriers have experienced similar cosmetic damage.

In June, the Gulf carrier told Airbus it would refuse to take delivery of the widebody due to a “mystery problem” which was later disclosed as deteriorating paint on the aircraft’s fuselage.

In August, Qatar’s regulator forced the carrier to ground 19 of its A350 jets as it waited for Airbus to fix the issue, which caused the airline to return its A380s to the sky after pledging it would never fly them again.

The other airlines who have reported similar defects include Finnair – Europe’s first A350 operator – Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Lufthansa and Air France. It comes after months of reports showing the issue was seemingly isolated to Qatar Airways.

In October 2016, Finnair reported cosmetic damage on the messaging board a year after it entered the jet in service, complaining the paint was in “very bad condition”.

“We can confirm that we have experienced some issues with A350 painting and have been working together with … Airbus to solve these issues,” a Finnair spokesperson said.


A few years later in 2019, Finnair posted pictures on the messaging board showing there was some missing mesh – which is used protect aircraft from lightning strikes.

Airbus and Finnair declined to comment, but Airbus officials said that problem was likely an older issue which has since been resolved.

“We have seen no effect on the structure of the aircraft and operators continue to fly with high levels of operational reliability,” A350 chief engineer Miguel Angel LLorca Sanz said in an interview.

“This is not at all affecting the lightning strike protection due to the substantial (safety) margins … It is not at all an airworthiness issue.”

Some problems with “early surface wear” had made a layer of mesh visible, but the planemaker said it was fixing it.

Hong Kong’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific also reported similar problems in 2016 and a year later said it continued to “experience paint peeling problems on multiple aircraft”. In one of the posts submitted, paint problems arose only two weeks after delivery.

While the airline confirmed it had experienced some cosmetic deterioration, the issue has been fully resolved.

Then, in October 2017, Germany’s Lufthansa also found issues with paint peeling, sometimes reaching more than a square metre.

Despite this, each airline – excluding Qatar – has persisted the paint defects did not pose safety threats to the aircraft.

But Qatar still remains vigilant in getting to the root cause of this before returning the jet to service.

Airbus is considering changing to a more flexible material called perforated copper foil to mitigate the lightning risks, according to Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath.

“Some dimensions of the issue are still being investigated,” Schaffrath said. “We’re also addressing the root causes as part of continuous improvement so we will install solutions going forward.”

Most paint defects have notably been caused by differences in temperature, according to Schaffrath.







Each day, our subscribers are more informed with the right information.

SIGN UP to the Australian Aviation magazine for high-quality news and features for just $99.95 per year