The British government has revealed that it has volunteered to intervene between European aircraft manufacturer Airbus and Qatar Airways in an escalating dispute.
The two sides have been locked in a verbal spat over a paint problem with several Airbus A350 planes that has been smoldering in the public eye since May.
The dispute took a new turn on Thursday when Airbus said that it would seek an “independent legal evaluation” on the matter in order to safeguard its brand image from claims that the A350 has airworthiness difficulties.
Only Qatar Airways has publicly criticized Airbus over the painting issue, despite the fact that Airbus was cautious not to name the airline involved.
The issue, according to Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, is producing cracks in the fuselage of some planes, and Qatar’s civil aviation regulator has grounded 20 A350 planes due to safety concerns.
Airbus claims that these worries are unwarranted. The European Air Safety Agency has stated that, while the paintwork issue is cosmetically irritating, it does not represent a safety risk.
At least five airlines are experiencing similar problems, although only Qatar Airways has grounded flights as a result of the problem.
The issue arises because the A350 has a cutting-edge carbon composite fuselage that must then be coated with a lightweight metal mesh for lightning protection.
The paint on some parts of this mesh is bubbling and splitting, and airlines operating in hotter climates, such as Qatar, are having more problems.
The UK’s Investment Minister, Gerry Grimstone, claimed he had offered to mediate between the two sides in an effort to resolve the disagreement.
A government official confirmed the offer, saying it underlined “the importance of Airbus and Qatari investment to the UK.”
Qatar’s Qatar Investment Authority is estimated to have invested more than £40 billion in the United Kingdom. Shares in well-known British banks, airports, supermarkets, and Harrods, the famed Knightsbridge department store, are among the investments.
At a vast manufacturing facility in Wales, Airbus creates wings for all of its aircraft models.
According to Reuters, neither side was enthusiastic about the offer of mediation. Following Airbus’ rare public involvement on Thursday, Qatar Airways has so far refused to comment on the matter.
“While Airbus regrets the need to follow such a path, it has become necessary to defend its position and reputation,” the aircraft manufacturer said in its statement.
“Airbus has worked actively with its customers in order to minimise the impact and any inconvenience caused by this in-service surface degradation on the aircraft. These solutions have all been dismissed by the above-mentioned customer without legitimate justification.”