Airbus is rumoured to have cancelled Qatar Airways’ order for a fourth A350 amid an ongoing dispute over aircraft defects.
It comes two months after the European planemaker axed the Doha-based airline’s third A350 order, after the carrier refused to take delivery of two incoming jets in February.
The two companies have been locked in an ongoing tit-for-tat battle since June 2021 over defective paint jobs on the A350, which sees the paint deteriorate rapidly and result in some scarring on the surface of the aircraft.
While Airbus and the European Aviation Safety Agency have claimed the paint issue causes no threat to safety, the Gulf carrier and Qatari authorities have continued to raise questions about safety and halted all A350 deliveries.
The Qatar Civil Aviation Authority continues to impose a grounding order on all A350s until the matter is resolved.
Three sources close to the matter told Reuters that Airbus has cancelled the delivery of Qatar’s fourth A350and will likely to the same with its fifth and sixth jets as they are built.
A British court ruled in May that Airbus was free to continue attempting to deliver aircraft to Qatar once built, which triggers payment schedules.
Airbus claims Qatar now owes over US$220 million in compensation due to rejecting deliveries, and said this demand was a “last resort” after “fruitless attempts to find mutually beneficial solutions”.
Qatar denies it had broken its contract by refusing delivery, and said it was unsure how Airbus arrived at that conclusion.
Both parties are due back in court on Thursday in London for the latest round of procedural hearings. A full trial on the issue is scheduled for mid next year.
The two aerospace giants have been battling it out in a heated row for months, after Qatar sued Airbus in December over ongoing paint surface and lightning mesh complaints on its A350 jets.
In February, Qatar cancelled two A350 deliveries due to the dispute, and later that month, Airbus asked a London High Court judge to award the planemaker US$220 million in damages over the rejected aircraft.
Since the beginning of the issue, Qatar’s regulator has forced the airline to ground 22 of its A350 aircraft, with no signs of re-entering these into service until the dispute is resolved.
Qatar said the surface flaws — which have also been reported by other airlines such as Finnair, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, and Air France — would expose the aircraft to lightning strikes.
Both the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration have said the surface issues pose no safety threat to the aircraft, and Airbus has argued Qatar is mislabelling the complaints to bag compensation.
The carrier has sought for more than $700 million in compensation for the costs involved in being unable to fly the A350s in its fleet, and Qatar said that the EASA is yet to undertake an “extensive analysis” over the surface flaws.