Qatar Airways Sues Airbus In London Court As A350 Dispute Escalates

Qatar Airways has stepped up a dispute with Airbus over its A350 aircraft by launching a legal case against the European plane maker in the High Court in London.

On December 20, the Gulf airline announced it had launched legal proceedings in the technology and construction division of the London court.

The case centres on Qatar Airways’ complaints that the surface and paint on some A350 aircraft have been damaged and whether this “accelerated surface degradation” is merely a cosmetic issue or something more serious.

“We have sadly failed in all our attempts to reach a constructive solution with Airbus,” said Qatar Airways in a statement, adding it has “been left with no alternative but to seek a rapid resolution of this dispute via the courts.”

Qatar Airways has grounded 21 of its fleet of 53 A350 aircraft because of the issue. “We strongly believe that Airbus must undertake a thorough investigation of this condition to conclusively establish its full root cause,” it said.

In a brief statement, Airbus confirmed it had received a formal legal claim filed by the airline and was now analyzing the claim. “Airbus intends to vigorously defend its position,” it said.

The dispute between the two sides first emerged in May and the relationship has been steadily getting worse since then. In June, Qatar Airways halted further deliveries of new A350 aircraft and in late November its chief executive Akbar Al-Baker ruled out buying any freighter aircraft from Airbus. Baker recently told the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post that Airbus had “destroyed” its business relationship with the carrier.

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Airbus has defended its position and has been preparing for a legal battle. On December 9, it said it was seeking an independent legal assessment on how to resolve the dispute. In a statement it said it had “thoroughly assessed” the surface paint issue and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) had confirmed there was no airworthiness impact for the A350 fleet. “The attempt by this customer to misrepresent this specific topic as an airworthiness issue represents a threat to the international protocols on safety matters,” it said.

Reuters has reported that several other airlines – including Air France, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Finnair and Lufthansa – have raised concerns over surface flaws since the A350 entered service and that in at some cases damage extended below the paint to a layer of lightning protection. Delta Airlines DAL is also reported to have found problems.

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