The months-long dispute between Qatar Airways and Airbus over the A350 aircraft does not likely seem to end soon.
Speaking at the Aviation Club in London on November 30, 2021, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said that Airbus needs to admit that it had a problem with flaws on the surface of its A350 jets and ruled out buying freighter planes from the European aircraft manufacturing company.
Al Baker confirmed that Qatar Airways had grounded 20 of the long-range A350 jets in a months-long dispute over paint and other surface damage that has also prompted the airline to halt further deliveries.
“Qatar Airways cannot sit with its arms folded and legs crossed. We need to solve it. Airbus has made a very large dent in our widebody operations,” Al Baker said.
“It is a serious matter; we don’t know if it is an airworthiness issue; we also don’t know that it is not an airworthiness issue. The real cause of it has not been established by Airbus. Now they have, at last, accepted that there are other airlines, several of them that have the same condition.”
An investigation done by Reuters showed that the Qatar Airways issue over the A350 is not an isolated case. A private maintenance message board used by Airbus and A350 operators and reviewed by Reuters showed that as early as 2016, Finnair had raised concerns over paint and reported in October 2019 that damage had spread below to the anti-lightning mesh.
“They have acknowledged that they are working to find a solution, which means they still don’t have a solution,” Al Baker added.
“And they don’t have a solution because they still don’t know why it is happening. You know it is always better when there is a problem to admit, not to put your customer in a corner and blame them for something which is actually your own problem.”
In early November 2021, Al Baker announced that Qatar Airways had to “reluctantly” bring back at least five of its A380’s in order to ease a capacity shortage caused by the grounding of its A350 aircraft.
AeroTime news has reached out to Airbus for a statement.