European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has canceled the rest of Qatar’s orders for A350 wide-body aircraft.
The move comes as the two continue to battle surface paint issues on the carrier’s A350 aircraft.
Qatar Airways has just been dealt a major blow by Airbus as the two continue to spar over paint issues on the carrier’s A350s. European aircraft manufacturer Airbus confirmed to Insider on Friday that it has canceled all Qatari orders for A350 aircraft. The pending orders included 19 wide-body jets, with Airbus saying it believed Qatar no longer wanted to honor the contract after refusing to take delivery of two A350s in February. While Airbus says Qatar was unwilling to accept the widebody, the carrier says Airbus canceled the order outright. But Qatar has previously said it will refuse any future deliveries until Airbus provides a full analysis of the root causes of the problems the planemaker told Insider it was having.
Qatar said it had no statement available at this time when contacted by Insider. Airbus also canceled Qatar’s order for 50 A321neos in January, which CEO Akbar Al Baker described as “a matter of considerable regret and frustration”. In July, Qatar confirmed an order for 25 Boeing 737 MAX 10s to help meet its narrow-body needs.
Airbus’ decision to cancel Qatar’s remaining A350 orders comes as the two companies battle over the state of the jet’s paintwork – an issue which Al Baker says has “destroyed” the carrier’s relationship with Airbus.
In August 2021, Qatar grounded its A350 jets due to concerns over paint problems that it and the National Aviation Authority said posed a threat to the safety and airworthiness of the aircraft. As of June 2022, the carrier has grounded 23 A350s. A spokesperson told Insider in January that “the glitches are not superficial and one of the glitches is causing exposure and damage to the aircraft’s lightning protection system.”
Qatar also pointed to the potential exposure of the composite structure to moisture and ultraviolet radiation and cracking in the composite that could damage “a high percentage of rivets on the fuselage.”
Several other carriers, such as Etihad Airways and Delta Air Lines, have also seen degrading paint on their A350s, according to Reuters, but none have made the same claims as Qatar or said the damage is a safety threat.
Ever since Qatar raised concerns about the A350, Airbus and the carrier have been at an impasse on how to resolve the issue. Airbus has repeatedly pushed Qatar, saying the damaged paintwork is simply “cosmetic”.
“This customer’s attempt to misrepresent this particular issue as an airworthiness issue poses a threat to international protocols on safety matters,” the planemaker said in a December statement.
The European Aviation Safety Agency has backed Airbus by saying the color does not affect airworthiness, according to Bloomberg.
While Airbus has “provided the necessary guidance to its customers and operators for continuous operations”, Qatar is still unhappy with the aircraft manufacturers’ response. As a result, Qatar sued Airbus in London’s High Court, seeking $618 million in damages.
The trial will be held in the UK next summer, but in the meantime the court told Airbus it could sell its undelivered A350s to other carriers such as Air India, Reuters reported.
“On a personal level, I’m friends with everybody, but when it comes to a problem with my company, then that’s a different story,” Al Baker said at a news conference in June, according to Reuters. “If things were settled, we still wouldn’t be waiting for the trial to be held next year.”
Airbus told Insider the company was still open to a settlement with Qatar, with CEO Guillaume Faury telling Reuters in June that there had been “progress in the sense that we are communicating”.