Qatar Airways announced on Monday that it had filed legal action against Airbus in London’s High Court over a developing dispute about fast deteriorating paintwork on some of the Doha-based airline’s A350-1000 aircraft.
The latest salvo in the dispute came around a week and a half after Airbus said it would seek an “independent legal assessment” over what it described as an ongoing “mischaracterization” of its A350 aircraft by an unnamed airline.
The uncommon legal threat from Airbus, located in Toulouse, was clearly aimed at Qatar Airways. Qatar Airways chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, has chastised Airbus for its handling of the problem and questioned the airworthiness of the impacted planes in recent months.
Qatar’s civil aviation regulator has ordered Qatar Airways to halt 21 of its 53 A350-1000 planes due to baseless safety concerns, according to both Airbus and the European Aviation Safety Agency.
“Qatar Airways has today issued legal proceedings against Airbus in the Technology and Construction division of the High Court in London,” the airline said in a statement released on Monday.
Because the UK’s long-established and well-regarded legal systems are accepted and respected around the world, London is a favorite place for foreign firms to resolve high-profile civil disputes.
“We have sadly failed in all our attempts to reach a constructive solution with Airbus in relation to the accelerated surface degradation condition adversely impacting the Airbus A350 aircraft,” the statement continued. “Qatar Airways has therefore been left with no alternative but to seek a rapid solution of this dispute via the courts”.
Al Baker said last week that he would never do business with Airbus again until the manufacturer identified the problem’s core cause and executed a long-term remedy.
Since its last statement, in which it claimed Qatar Airways had rejected numerous of Airbus’ proposed solutions without adequate evaluation, the company has remained silent on the matter.
“The attempt by this customer to misrepresent this specific topic as an airworthiness issue represents a threat to the international protocols on safety matters,” a statement from Airbus claimed.
After filing legal action on Monday, a Qatar Airways spokeswoman responded, saying, “Without a proper understanding of the core cause of the situation, Qatar Airways will not be able to determine if any proposed repair option can fix the underlying condition.”
“Qatar Airways number one priority remains the safety of its passengers and crew.”
The painting issue in concern is the paint bubbling and splitting around a specific metal mesh that is wrapped around the A350’s carbon composite fuselage for lightning protection.
Qatar Airways is concerned that the paint damage will compromise lightning protection, posing a flight safety risk.
Several other A350 operators have been affected by the incident, but they all remain confident in the aircraft’s safety and have not grounded any A350s.
The problem, according to Airbus, is purely cosmetic and has no bearing on the aircraft’s safety.
Following a lavish delivery ceremony in 2018, Qatar Airways was the proud launch customer of the A350-1000. Due to the ongoing conflict with Airbus, Akbar Al Baker has cooled on the notion of a dedicated freighter-only variant of the A350.