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Qatar Airways seeks $618 mln from Airbus in escalating dispute


The Qatari flag carrier had launched legal proceedings against the plane manufacturer in December at the High Court in London in bid to settle the dispute.

Qatar Airways is now demanding $618 million in contractual compensation from airplane manufacturer, Airbus, amid an escalating legal spat over jet surface flaws on A350 aircrafts, Reuters has reported.

Citing recent court documents, the news agency says the national carrier is also requesting British judges prevent France-based Airbus from attempting to deliver more of its jets until it fixes the defects.

Since last year, Qatar Airways and Airbus have been involved in a dispute over the corrosion of a sub-layer of lightning protection on airplanes, with the latter maintaining  that the flaw does not pose a risk to A350’s safety.

Airbus described the flaw as a “surface paint” issue while the Qatari airline expressed concerns over problems beneath the paint, affecting the Expanded Copper Foil [ECF], which was used as a lightning-conductor, and the composite shell.

In June last year, a spokesperson for the airline told Reuters that “Qatar Airways continues to experience and has witnessed a condition in which the surface below the paint on some of its Airbus A350 aircraft has been degrading at an accelerated rate”.

Qatar Airways sues Airbus in escalating jet surface dispute

In turn, the flag carrier’s domestic regulator, the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority [QCAA], grounded 21 A350 aircrafts. The decision left Qatar Airways with an aircraft shortage as the total grounded jets represent 40% of its current fleet of A350s.

Responding to the lack of action from the plane manufacturer, Qatar Airways launched legal proceedings in December last year against Airbus at the High Court in London.

Now, the latest court documents reveal that the airline is seeking an additional $4 million from Airbus for each day the jets remained grounded on top of the amount it demanded in contractual compensation.

Furthermore, the legal claim includes $76 million in compensation for a single, five-year-old aircraft parked in France for a year that was supposed to be repainted for the much-anticipated 2022 World Cup.

Industry sources told Reuters that the airplane requires 980 repair patches after the paint job revealed gaps in its lighting shield.

Beyond Qatar Airways

Documents seen by Reuters in November last year revealed that the dispute was not simply between the French company and the Gulf state with at least five other airlines having raised similar concerns since as far back as 2016.

Also late last year, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency [EASA] issued a preliminary warning that patches of the anti-lightning system might have been poorly fitted on over a dozen Airbus A350 jets after major American carrier Delta Airlines revealed it also faced “paint issues”.

Speaking to the South China Morning Post in December, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker accused Airbus of “destroying”  its relationship with the flag carrier.

Al Baker said Qatar was also planning to lease a significant number of jets, including Cathay Pacific 777s, to make up for the grounded planes, noting that it would be hard to fix the damaged relationship with Airbus.

Despite QCAA’s claims that the deterioration of the airplanes was “disturbing, if not alarming”, the EASA, which oversees an aircraft’s design, said it has not found any evidence of airworthiness issues.

The Qatari airline is one of Airbus’ biggest customers, and was even the launch customer of the A350.

Moreover, Qatar Airways brought back part of its Airbus A380 fleet in November to meet passengers’ demands.

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