Airbus A350-900 de Qatar Airways Airbus A350-900 of Qatar Airways

In the conflict which opposes Qatar Airways

to Airbus since last year, one cannot speak about appeasement. Qatar Airways has been complaining for several months about the deterioration of the paint on the fuselage of its Airbus A350 aircraft.

The company explains that the deterioration of the surface threatens the safety of passengers. Qatar Airways says that “the degradation of the paint layer leads to the exposure and damage of the aircraft’s lightning protection system”. The carrier further states that the “underlying composite structure is exposed to moisture and ultraviolet light. Other defects include cracks in the composite and damage around a high percentage of rivets on the aircraft fuselage.”

More than $618 million in compensation

As the Qatari civil aviation authority ordered the grounding of the A350s, Qatar Airways grounded 21 Airbus A350 aircraft. Hence the damage brought before the courts. The company estimates that it is entitled to 618 million dollars in compensation from the European aircraft manufacturer. It adds a penalty of $4 million per day for the immobilization of its aircraft.

Airbus obviously rejects the dangerousness of the damage noted by Qatar Airways. The European aircraft manufacturer indicates that the cause of the problem has been identified and that the airworthiness of the aircraft is not at issue. This was recently confirmed by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Airbus has since decided to cancel a contract for the delivery of 50 A321 Neo aircraft. The contract, worth more than five billion dollars, was signed about ten years ago. Ten of the aircraft were to be an LR version, i.e. for long-haul aircraft. Airbus thus feels in a strong position on this type of aircraft, as it has no real competition.

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For Qatar Airways, the cancellation of this order could partly hinder its development pace. The aircraft would have had to serve routes with less passenger traffic. They would also have enabled routes with high seasonal traffic to be continued in the low season or to increase frequencies on certain routes. The hunt for an alternative to the A321neo is therefore on… unless a last-minute agreement is reached.

Luc Citrinot