Qatar Airways has reportedly halted deliveries of its A350 jets due to dissatisfaction with the finish on the aircraft. According to reports, the surface below the paint is degrading unusually quickly and it will not take any more deliveries until Airbus resolves the issue.
An issue with Airbus
The row between Qatar Airways and Airbus has reached a new peak today as the Doha-based airline has reportedly halted all deliveries of new A350s. The airline previously said that an issue was causing concern, without specifying exactly what it was. In an interview, Group CEO Akbar Al Baker said,
“We have an issue with Airbus we need to settle, and if we are not able to settle that serious issue we have with them, we will refuse to take any aircraft from them.”
While declining to add any color on what the issue was, speculation pointed to a problem with the paintwork. However, Al Baker debunked this in a subsequent interview, stating simply that it was up to Airbus to resolve the problem swiftly, and threatening ‘industrial repercussions’ for the planemaker.
Now, it seems things have come to a head, as Reuters is reporting that the carrier has halted all incoming deliveries of the Airbus A350 until it is satisfied with the resolution. More specifically, the airline noted that,
“Qatar Airways continues to experience and has witnessed a condition in which the surface below the paint on some of its Airbus A350 aircraft has been degrading at an accelerated rate.”
This suggests that it is not a problem with the paintwork per se but rather an issue with the surface below the paint. Some aircraft have been grounded while Qatar Airways investigates the problem. The airline continued,
“Qatar Airways will require this condition and its underlying root cause to be fully understood and corrected before the delivery of any further Airbus A350 aircraft.”
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Qatar Airways is the largest customer of the A350 and was the launch operator for both the -1000 and the -900. It already has a fleet of 34 A350-900s and 19 A350-1000s, with a further 23 -1000s expected for delivery.
According to ch-aviation, the airline should have received two more A350-1000s in June, with one more in July and one in November. The rest were expected to arrive between 2022 and 2025. However, the problems for Airbus might not be limited to the disruption of this delivery schedule alone.
When this issue first arose, Al Baker was quick to point out the influence he has within airlines around the world. He noted that any rift in the relationship between Qatar Airways and Airbus could also have an impact on Airbus’ standing with airlines in which he has a stake, including LATAM and IAG.
Airbus is remaining tight-lipped on the situation, saying only that the discussions it is having with a customer are confidential. However, it’s not the first time that an issue with the finish on the A350 has been indicated.
Lufthansa returned its four-year-old A350s to the paint shop in Toulouse, notionally to rebrand with the new livery. And as long ago as January, a Qatar Airways A350 was returned to Toulouse due to a paint/finish problem. The details of the issue will likely come out in the wash, but for now, Airbus is stuck with a customer unwilling to take any new A350 deliveries.