European manufacturing giant Airbus has cancelled a contract for 50 new A321neo planes with Qatar Airways as a dispute over paint degradation between the two deepens.
The Middle East carrier issued legal proceedings against Airbus at the High Court in London in December in a dispute over the grounding of its fleet of A350 planes.
The airline took 21 aircraft out of operation last year, arguing paint on the fuselage was “degrading at an accelerated rate” and creating a safety concern.
Airbus countered, blaming the airline for an “ongoing mischaracterization of non-structural surface degradation”. The manufacturer said the surface paint-related findings have been thoroughly assessed by its own team and confirmed by the European Aviation Safety Agency as having “no airworthiness impact” on the A350.
The dispute is ongoing, with a hearing due in April 2022.
In response to the decision to terminate contracts for the Airbus A321neo, Qatar Airway said: “We confirm that we are adhering to all of our obligations under all applicable contracts. It is therefore a matter of considerable regret and frustration that Airbus has taken the apparent decision to expand and escalate this dispute.”
“We continue to urge Airbus to undertake a satisfactory root cause analysis into the cause of the defects, as it is required to do,” the airline added.
News of Airbus’ decision to terminate the A321neo aircraft orders also came a day after an expedited court hearing initiated by Qatar Airways at the Technology & Construction division of the High Court in England.
On this occasion, Qatar Airways issued this statement on Airbus A350 Aircraft:
“On 20 January 2022, Qatar Airways, through the legal proceedings against Airbus in the Technology & Construction division of the High Court in England, sought an expedited hearing of a preliminary issue to address our serious and legitimate safety concerns regarding the surface degradation condition adversely impacting our Airbus A350 fleet which has resulted so far in 21 Airbus A350 aircraft being grounded. As this video clearly shows*, these defects are not superficial and one of the defects causes the aircraft’s lightning protection system to be exposed and damaged, another defect leaves the underlying composite structure exposed to moisture and ultraviolet light, and other defects include cracking in the composite and damage around a high percentage of rivets on the aircraft fuselage. We welcome the decision of the court to expedite this issue and order a hearing in April in an effort to bring about a more rapid resolution to the dispute.
We continue to strongly believe that Airbus must undertake a thorough investigation of this condition to conclusively establish its full root cause in order to establish whether any proposed repair solution will rectify the underlying condition and ensure no risk to the continued airworthiness of the aircraft.
Qatar Airways’ number one priority remains the safety of its passengers and crew. For this reason, all affected aircraft remain grounded, and we are unable to accept delivery of further aircraft tendered for delivery by Airbus. Airbus has responded by seeking to cancel an entirely separate contract for the delivery of 50 A321 Neo aircraft. We confirm that we are adhering to all of our obligations under all applicable contracts.”
“It is therefore a matter of considerable regret and frustration that Airbus has taken the apparent decision to expand and escalate this dispute. We continue to urge Airbus to undertake a satisfactory root cause analysis into the cause of the defects, as it is required to do. Qatar Airways remains prepared to help with the root cause analysis however it can. In the meantime, we will continue to robustly defend our position in the legal proceedings,” the statement concluded.
A multiple award-winning airline, Qatar Airways was recently announced as the ‘Airline of the Year’ at the 2021 World Airline Awards, managed by the international air transport rating organization, Skytrax. It was also named ‘World’s Best Business Class’, ‘World’s Best Business Class Airline Lounge’, ‘World’s Best Business Class Airline Seat’, ‘World’s Best Business Class Onboard Catering’ and ‘Best Airline in the Middle East’.
The airline continues to stand alone at the top of the industry having won the main prize for an unprecedented sixth time (2011, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021).