Paint issues on Qatar's A350 jets have put the carrier in a bitter legal dispute with Airbus. Take a look at 2 of the grounded planes.




Surface damage seen on Qatar Airways
Surface damage seen on Qatar Airways' airbus A350 parked at Qatar airways aircraft maintenance hangar in Doha  
  • Qatar Airways and Airbus are in a long legal battle over surface paint issues on the airline's A350 jets.

  • The carrier says the damage poses a safety risk, but Airbus claims the paint issue is only "cosmetic."

  • Reuters reporters gained access to two of Qatar's grounded A350s to get a close-up look at the damage.

Surface paint issues on Qatar Airways' Airbus A350 widebody jets have created a months-long legal dispute with the European plane manufacturer.

Qatar Airways A350.
Qatar Airways A350.  

Airlines around the world have raised concerns about Airbus' A350 paint issues, and now Qatar is seeking over $600 million in damages from the planemaker

The airline says cracked paint and exposed copper mesh on the planes pose a safety risk, telling Insider in January that "the defects cause the aircraft's lightning protection system to be exposed and damaged."

Cracked paint on Qatar A350.
Cracked paint on Qatar A350.  

Source: Insider

However, Airbus has strongly denied the claims, saying the paint flaw is simply "cosmetic," and argues the plane is not unairworthy because of the redundant safety systems built into the jet, Reuters reported.

Qatar paint issues on A350.
Qatar paint issues on A350.  

Source: Reuters

Moreover, the planemaker says the degraded paint does not impact airworthiness - a claim that has been backed by the European Aviation Safety Agency.

EASA.
EASA.  

Source: Insider

Despite the manufacturer's safety assurance, in June 2021, Qatar halted the acceptance of all A350 deliveries until Airbus completes a root cause analysis of the problem, which the airline says the planemaker has yet to do.

Qatar A350.
Qatar A350.  

Source: Insider

The airline then grounded 20 A350s in August 2021, saying it was following "explicit written instructions" from its aviation safety regulator. As of June 2022, Qatar has taken 23 jets out of service.

Qatar
Qatar's grounded A350.  

Other carriers, like Etihad, Lufthansa, and Delta Air Lines, have noticed surface paint issues on their A350s as well. However, the airlines say the issue is not a safety threat and will continue to fly them.

Etihad Airways Airbus A350-1000 XWB — Dubai Airshow 2021
Etihad Airways Airbus A350-1000 XWB — Dubai Airshow 2021  

Source: Insider

Airbus has pushed back on Qatar, telling Insider that it has already determined a root cause and "provided necessary guidance to its customers and operators for continuous operations."

Airbus A350-1000
Airbus A350-1000  

Source: Insider

"The attempt by this customer to misrepresent this specific topic as an airworthiness issue represents a threat to the international protocols on safety matters," Airbus said in a December statement.

Airbus A350.
Airbus A350.  

Source: Insider

Unsatisfied with Airbus' resolution, Qatar sued Airbus in a London High Court in December seeking $618 million in damages, plus an additional $4 million for every day the planes are grounded.

Grounded Qatar A350.
Grounded Qatar A350.  

Source: Insider

The London trial will occur next summer, but a UK judge ruled that Airbus can sell the undelivered jets to other customers, like Air India, while the dispute continues, according to Reuters.

Air India
Air India  

Source: Insider

Airbus has counter-sued, hoping to recover millions of dollars worth of credits that are given when jets are ordered. The manufacturer also canceled Qatar's order for 50 A321 aircraft and two A350-1000 jets, further fueling tensions.

Qatar A321.
Qatar A321.  

Airbus canceled Qatar Airways's order for 50 A321 jets worth more than $6 billion as the 2 companies' dispute intensifies

Qatar called the canceled orders "a matter of considerable regret and frustration," and, in response, posted a video on YouTube showing the degraded paint.

Screenshot of surface paint issues on Qatar
Screenshot of surface paint issues on Qatar's A350 aircraft from a full video showing the defects.  

Airbus has canceled Qatar's order for 2 A350 jets as the dispute between the two companies intensifies

Currently, two of Qatar's grounded A350s, which are worth $300 million combined, sit in the airline's maintenance hangar in Doha. Reuters gained access to the planes recently.

REUTERS/Imad Creidi
REUTERS/Imad Creidi  

Source: Reuters

During the close-up look of the damage, journalists reported an "elongated stretch of blistered and cracked or missing paint along the roof or crown of the jets."

Surface damage seen on Qatar Airways
Surface damage seen on Qatar Airways' airbus A350 parked at Qatar airways aircraft maintenance hangar in Doha.  

Source: Reuters

They also say the lightning mesh on the wingtips "appeared exposed and corroded," and that it was flat out "missing" on other parts, "leaving areas of the composite hull exposed."

Surface damage seen on Qatar Airways
Surface damage seen on Qatar Airways' airbus A350 parked at Qatar airways aircraft maintenance hangar in Doha.  

Source: Reuters

Meanwhile, the tail on one of the jets had "cracked and missing paint that exposed the layer beneath," and the main wings had "rivet rash," meaning loss of paint.

Surface damage seen on Qatar Airways
Surface damage seen on Qatar Airways' airbus A350 parked at Qatar airways aircraft maintenance hangar in Doha.  

Source: Reuters

Reuters says it has not verified "independently the cause of the damage" after reviewing court documents.

Surface damage seen on Qatar Airways
Surface damage seen on Qatar Airways' airbus A350 parked at Qatar airways aircraft maintenance hangar in Doha.  

Source: Reuters

Al Baker told Reuters that after speaking with Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury, the two are still at odds.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker poses near an Airbus A350-900 aircraft.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker poses near an Airbus A350-900 aircraft.  

Source: Reuters

"On a personal level I am friends with everyone but when it comes to an issue with my company, then it's a different story," he told a news conference, Reuters reported. "If things were settled, we would not be still waiting for a trial to happen next year."

Surface damage seen on Qatar Airways
Surface damage seen on Qatar Airways' airbus A350 parked at Qatar airways aircraft maintenance hangar in Doha.  

Source: Reuters

Meanwhile, Faury said there was "progress in the sense that we are communicating."

Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury.
Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury.  

Source: Reuters

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