In an ongoing dispute over a paint problem affecting some of Qatar Airways’ A350 aircraft, the European aerospace giant Airbus is countersuing Qatar Airways for at least $220 million.
Late last year, the Qatari government-backed airline filed a lawsuit against Airbus in London’s High Court, alleging that the airframer failed to identify the root cause of a fault that caused the paint on some A350 jets to peel, fracture, and bubble.
Qatar’s civil aviation regulator ordered 21 of the affected A350s to be grounded due to a paint problem that created an airworthiness risk. Qatar Airways is suing Airbus for a minimum of $618 million for the initial grounding, plus an extra $4 million for each day the jets are grounded.
Airbus claims that the paint flaw, while unsightly, poses no threat to the plane’s airworthiness and that Qatar Airways should be able to operate the jets. The manufacturer’s assessment is also supported by European air safety officials.
The counterclaim concerns two brand new A350 jets that are ready to be delivered to Qatar Airways on the ground in Toulouse, France. The airline has refused to accept the planes until Airbus provides a permanent fix for the paint problem.
This refusal to take the A350s, according to Airbus, has triggered a provision allowing it to cancel a second contract for 50 single-aisle A321 neo jets. The deal is valued at roughly $600 million, but Airbus has a backlog of plane orders and could easily find new clients.
Qatar Airways has not been discouraged, and on Monday announced that another A350 had been grounded due to suspected paint quality issues. The airline’s attorneys have already obtained a temporary restraining order against Airbus, barring the company from selling the A321neos.
The injunction will be in effect until a complete hearing, which is scheduled for April.
Airbus claims it is still trying to reach an amicable resolution to the mounting dispute, but Qatar Airways claims it has not seen any proof from Airbus to support this assertion.
“It is important to clarify that neither Qatar Airways nor its legal team are aware of any efforts by Airbus to try to resolve the situation in an amicable way,” the airline blasted on Monday. “In fact, the actual situation is to the contrary,” the statement continued.
“Qatar Airways will continue its legal action to seek an order that requires Airbus to fully, properly and transparently investigate the A350 Accelerated Surface Degradation, to establish the conclusive and full root cause of an important condition which is degrading the surface of the aircraft beneath the paint.”
Other A350 operators have reported similar paint flaws, but Qatar Airways is the first carrier to have grounded its planes as a result of the problem.