On August 5, 2021, Qatar Airways said it had been asked to ground 13 of its Airbus A350 aircraft by regulators in the Gulf state due to fuselages “degrading at an accelerated rate.” Due to reported difficulties, the conflict between Middle East Airlines and European aircraft manufacturers has gotten worse.
Qatar Airways has been embroiled in a public spat with Airbus for months, stating that it would not accept any deliveries of the carbon-composite widebody jet unless the issue was resolved.
Qatar Airways is the A350’s greatest client, having received 53 of the 76 planes order. Airbus and its American rival Boeing have been chastised by the airline for delays or quality issues on several occasions.
The story appears to have begun in November of 2020. The airline sent a four-year-old Airbus A350-900 to Shannon, Ireland, at the time. The IAC paint shop was supposed to apply a livery commemorating Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup next year.
The paint shop reportedly discovered cracks in the aircraft’s surface upon removing the top coat of paint. However, Airbus later emphasized that these were “superficial/cosmetic and only evident when the top coat of paint is scraped.”
The airline’s CEO, Akbar al-Baker, stated that he expects “Airbus gives this issue the time and attention it deserves. Qatar Airways would not accept any aircraft that do not continue to provide its clients with the highest level of safety and the finest travel experience possible “In a statement, he said.
On August 5, 2021, Qatar airways said that it is working with its regulator to ensure the continued safety of all passengers. As a result, thirteen aircraft have been grounded, effectively removing them from service until the root cause can be identified. A satisfactory solution to permanently correct the underlying condition can be made available.
Qatar Airways operates 53 Airbus A350 aircraft in the 1000 and 900 series. The airline has placed a second order with the Toulouse-based aircraft manufacturer, bringing its total order to 76 planes, the highest of any airline globally. Qatar Airways announced in June that it would not take any additional A350s until the problem is resolved.
On the other hand, Airbus declined to comment on Qatar Airways’ decision to ground the plane. Still, the move by regulatory authorities to force the grounding raises concerns about the A350’s carbon composite fuselage, which is designed to make the twin-aisle plane lighter and less expensive to operate by using less jet fuel.
“We don’t make any public pronouncements concerning the businesses of our clients. As a prominent aircraft manufacturer, we maintain constant communication with our customers. Those discussions are kept secret by us.” Airbus issued a statement.
Qatar Airways has already taken steps to restore service to its A330 fleet with immediate effect in order to mitigate the impact of the grounded A350 aircraft and is currently considering alternative options. In addition to focusing on maintaining its reputation for providing superior customer service, the airline claimed it was “cooperating with all the leasing businesses affected by this A350 grounding who have begun to investigate their afflicted aircraft,” without specifying any other parties.
“With this latest development, we genuinely hope that Airbus gives this subject the attention it deserves,” Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said in a statement announcing the regulator’s decision to stop the planes. “Before we take possession of any future A350 aircraft, Qatar Airways wants Airbus to have identified the root cause and permanently addressed the underlying fault to the satisfaction of Qatar Airways and our regulator,” he added. Al Baker has previously criticized both Airbus and Boeing for perceived quality issues, threatening to delay deliveries of jets on order if the makers do not fulfill requirements.