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Monday, January 24, 2022

UK minister offers to mediate in ‘unprecedented’ Airbus-Qatar Airways row


British Investment Minister Gerry Grimstone has offered to host a meeting between Qatar Airways and Airbus over the A350 dispute.

British Minister of State for Investment Gerry Grimstone has offered to mediate in the dispute between Airbus and Qatar Airways over the A350 jet’s surface flaws, according to sources with knowledge. 

Grimstone suggested to host a meeting between the parties before the dispute escalated on Thursday after Airbus threatened to utilise a procedure in English courts to seek an independent legal assessment.

According to Reuters, an official UK source confirmed the mediation offer and said the proposal was reflective of “the importance of Airbus and Qatari investment to the UK.”

However, a source said there were no indications that the offer was being taken up by Qatar Airways or Airbus.

The Gulf carrier and the European aerospace company are heading towards a legal fight over the impact of the surface flaws on the A350 jets.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker recently confirmed that the Gulf national carrier had grounded 20 A350 jets in a long dispute mainly over cosmetic damage that had also prompted Qatar Airways to halt further deliveries in June.

Airbus has called the flaw a  “surface paint” issue while the Qatari airline describes it as problems beneath the paint, affecting the Expanded Copper Foil (ECF), which was used as a lightning-conductor, and the composite shell.

European regulators propose check for A350 jet defect

Airbus accused the Qatari airlines of misrepresenting the problem as a safety issue and refusing to accept a repair plan.

Al Baker had previously called on the European multinational aerospace corporation to admit to the surface defects of its A350 jets and ruled out buying freighters from the company.

Aviation experts have said that the dispute between two aviation giants is unprecedented in public.

A recent investigation by Reuters found that at least five other airlines had also expressed worries over the surface defects since the A350 came into service. The investigation found that in some cases, the damage extended below paint to a layer of lightning protection.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) also issued a preliminary warning that patches of the anti-lightning system may have been poorly fitted on over a dozen Airbus A350 jets after major American carrier Delta Air Lines revealed it also faced “paint issues”.

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