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Airbus has canceled Qatar’s order for 2 A350 jets

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Airbus and Qatar Airways are again at odds, with the planemaker canceling another of the airline’s aircraft orders.

As tensions over surface paint issues on Qatar’s A350 jets continue to mount, Airbus announced on Tuesday that it had withdrawn the contract for two A350-1000 aircraft.

Reuters broke the story first, and Airbus later confirmed it to Insider, saying it has “notified Qatar’s default on failure to take two deliveries.”

“We confirm we did terminate delivery positions for 2 A350s with Qatar Airways in full compliance with our rights,” an Airbus spokesperson told Insider. “In this unprecedented situation, this decision came as a last resort and followed many fruitless attempts to find mutually beneficial solutions.”

The news comes only weeks after Airbus canceled Qatar’s purchase for 50 A321 planes, which was spurred by the carrier’s $618 million lawsuits against Airbus in the London High Court after it was forced to ground 21 of its A350s.

Degrading paint on widebody planes, according to Qatar, poses an airworthiness risk.

Qatar did not answer to Insider’s request for comment right away.

The airline has been a long-time Airbus customer, having been the first to fly the A350-1000, but surface paint concerns have “destroyed” their relationship, according to Qatar CEO Akbar Al Baker, who spoke to the South China Morning Post in December.

The paint, according to the airline, is a safety hazard, and Qatar’s aviation regulator has ordered the planes to be grounded until Airbus conducts a comprehensive root-cause study, something the company claims the planemaker has yet to perform.

In January, despite Qatar’s assertions, Airbus told Insider that it had “given essential assistance to its clients and operators for ongoing operations.”

Furthermore, Airbus has stated that the surface paint defects are merely “cosmetic” and do not pose a safety risk.

“The attempt by this customer to misrepresent this specific topic as an airworthiness issue represents a threat to the international protocols on safety matters,” the company said in a December statement.

The European Aviation Safety Agency backed the manufacturer’s judgment, according to the maker.

Six companies, including Finnair, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Lufthansa, Delta Air Lines, and Air France, have reported degraded paint on their A350s, but have not grounded the planes, according to Reuters.

Qatar posted a video to its YouTube account demonstrating the paint flaws in response to Airbus scrapping the A321 deal, claiming the planemaker’s decision was “a subject of profound sadness and dissatisfaction.”

Qatar said shortly after the contract was revoked that it had ordered up to 50 Boeing 737 MAX 10 passenger planes and 34 Boeing 777-8 freighter planes, with the option to buy 16 more.

The airline will be the first to fly the new freight jet, and the new MAXs will make American planemakers’ products the majority of Qatar’s fleet.

 

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