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Qatar Airways sues Airbus over A350 dispute

written by Isabella Richards | December 23, 2021

Airbus’ A350-1000, shortly after an ATTOL vision-based take-off. (Airbus)

Qatar Airways has launched legal proceedings against Airbus over the ongoing A350 dispute, claiming the company had “no alternative” but to sue the planemaker.

In a press release on Monday, the Doha-based carrier said it has “sadly failed in all our attempts to reach a constructive solution with Airbus in relation to the accelerated surface degradation condition adversely impacting the Airbus A350 aircraft”.

It comes almost six months after the issue first arose in June, condemning the planemaker over paint defects that have also underpinned further problems with the aircraft’s lightning protection mesh.

It led to Qatar’s safety regulator forcing the company to ground over 20 of its widebody A350’s in August – about 40 per cent of its A350 fleet – as it still waits for Airbus to repair the issue.

The suit was issued in the technology and construction division of the High Court in London, according to Qatar.

“The legal proceedings have been commenced to ensure that Airbus will now address our legitimate concerns without further delay,” the company said.

“We strongly believe that Airbus must undertake a thorough investigation of this condition to conclusively establish its full root cause.

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“Without a proper understanding of the root cause of the condition, it is not possible for Qatar Airways to establish whether any proposed repair solution will rectify the underlying condition”.

In response to the legal claim, Airbus said it “intends to vigorously defend its position”.

Other airlines across the globe have reported similar issues, found by Reuters on a private messaging board, such as Finnair, Cathay Pacific and more, but most have been reports of superficial flaws.

Last week, Investment Minister Lord Gerry Grimstone in the United Kingdom offered to host a meeting to mediate between the two aerospace giants after Airbus warned it would seek a legal assessment.

Rumors circulated that the companies would accept the offer, as Airbus feared Qatar was spreading information that the defects could impede on safety, which would largely impact the widebody’s reputation in the future.

Only days before, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) proposed to issue an airworthiness directive of the A350 aircraft.

The proposal detected the incorrectly installed “heavy expanded copper foil” patches – which are used to protect an aircraft from lightning – on the aircraft could create an “ignition source for the fuel vapour inside the fuel tanks”.

“In case of a lightning strike of high intensity in the area, [it] could possibly result in ignition of the fuel-air mixture in the affected fuel tank and consequent loss of the aeroplane,” the EASA said.

While Qatar was set on placing a large order for the A350 freighter in hopes to expand its cargo market, sources believe the company will choose Boeing due to the dispute, in a move that will cost the European planemaker one of its vital customers.

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