Qatar Airways files a lawsuit against Airbus over A350 surface paint flaw

Qatar Airways, the flag carrier of Qatar, has filed a lawsuit against Airbus over Airbus A350 surface degradation in the Technology and Construction Division of the High Court in London. The ongoing dispute between two parties over issues of surface coating irregularities has stepped up as Qatar Airways has launched a legal proceeding against the European planemaker on December 20.

In November, the airline confirmed the accelerated rate of deterioration of surfaces covered by the paint on the A350 fleet and had ramped up the frequency of checks of A350s. The Qatari carrier also denied taking any more deliveries of the type until the underlying root cause of the issue was fully understood and corrected.

 In fact, the issue emerged at the start of January when a Qatar Airways Airbus A350-900 had presented irregularities on its surface when it was about to be repainted in a special livery for the celebration of the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup in Ireland.

Also Read: Qatar airways grounded 13 Airbus A350 following conflict with Airbus

That time, the planemaker had released the statement saying it was not a safety concern but a superficial/cosmetic issue which was only visible when the top coast of paint was stripped. In agreement with the airline, Airbus inspected the aircraft for further inspection, as a precaution, and repainting.

As per the statement released by Qatar Airways, the airline took this legal action to seek a rapid resolution of the dispute via the courts after it failed in its entire attempt to reach the constructive solution in relation to accelerated fuselage paint defects on some A350s.

The carrier stressed the need for Airbus to undertake a thorough investigation of this condition and address legitimate concerns without further delay in addition to the proper understanding of the root cause of the condition for effective remedy.

In response to the lawsuit file, Airbus released a brief statement saying that it had been served a formal legal claim in the English courts filed by Qatar Airways and was analyzing the contents of the claims. The statement also stressed that the manufacturer would vigorously defend its position over the allegations pledged.

The latest move by Qatar Airways to complain at the court comes just 11 days after Airbus revealed that it was seeking an independent legal assessment in the ongoing A350 saga to resolve the dispute in the face of ongoing mischaracterization of non-structural surface degradation. Airbus re-iterated that it and EASA had studied the issue that had no airworthiness impact on the Airbus A350 fleet.

© Bram Botterman

It also commented that one of its customers which it didn’t name as Qatar Airways was misrepresenting the surface degradation topic as an airworthiness issue which represented a threat to international protocols on safety matters.

What’s the A350 paint saga?

A350 paint saga centers on Qatar Airways’ complaints that the paint of aircraft above a wire mesh has cracked and flaked off, with some of its aircraft developing gaps that caused problems with the composite fuselage underneath.

Now, the main question remains whether this accelerated surface degradation is a serious issue and poses a risk to flight safety or just a cosmetic issue that doesn’t affect the aircraft’s structure or introduce any other risks.

Grounding of twenty-one A350s

Qatar Airways grounded twenty-one A350s as Qatar’s Civil Aviation Authority insisted to ground these planes until these planes were deemed airworthy and the problem was fixed. Qatar, being one of Airbus’ largest customers, has placed orders for 50 A321neos and 23 A350-1000 and seeks to remain committed to existing orders if these planes are technically robust.

It’s not that Qatar Airways is the only airline that has experienced surface degradation of the paint on its Airbus A350 fleet. Other airlines such as Finnair, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Lufthansa, and Air France also raised concerns about the deterioration of the painted surface on aircraft bellies in a private maintenance message board used by Airbus and A350 operators.

However, none of these airlines or regulators have grounded their A350 fleet.

EASA’s say on A350 paint issue

EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) hasn’t taken any action as the State of Design for the A350 paint issue as no paint and protection damage has been reported by any other airlines. Earlier, it proposed an airworthiness directive (AD) while required inspection of the limited number of aircraft without the need to ground any jets.

Bottom line

Airbus and Qatar Airways are deadlocked in a dispute that has been escalated with the move to the court system. Coming days will show whether Qatar Airways’ issue on fuselage paint defects indeed poses a threat to flight safety.

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