Drama: Airbus & Qatar Airways A350 Dispute Escalates

Drama: Airbus & Qatar Airways A350 Dispute Escalates

33

Tensions between Qatar Airways and Airbus are continuing to escalate

Qatar Airways’ Airbus A350 issues

In August 2021, Qatar Airways grounded over a dozen Airbus A350 jets, as the carrier had reported a “significant condition” across the Airbus A350 fleet, whereby “the fuselage surface below the paint is degrading at an accelerated rate.” While this is outside my area of expertise, the pictures of the peeling and cracking are kind of shocking.

Qatar’s aviation regulators called for these jets to be grounded, and on top of that the Doha-based carrier announced it would stop taking delivery of A350s until the underlying problem was identified and fixed. Qatar Airways is continuing to ground more and more A350s — we’re now up to 20+ A350s being grounded, with more expected to be grounded in the coming weeks.

This has left Qatar Airways with an aircraft shortage, and the airline has even brought back the A380 as a result. Qatar Airways is one of Airbus’ biggest customers, and for that matter the airline was even the launch customer of the A350.

Qatar Airways is grounding many A350s

Airbus threatens legal action against Qatar Airways

The challenge here is that Qatar Airways and Airbus are at a standstill. Airbus is essentially denying that there’s a problem with the A350, claiming Qatar Airways’ complaints are just about cosmetic issues. Meanwhile Qatar Airways is claiming it’s a safety issue, and is grounding a subset of its fleet until this is resolved. But Airbus doesn’t seem to be actively working on a solution, since Airbus doesn’t think there’s a problem.

Last week Airbus announced that it had “become necessary for Airbus to seek an independent legal assessment as a way forward to resolve the dispute.” The aircraft manufacturer accused Qatar Airways of “ongoing mischaracterizations of non-structural surface degradation.”

According to Airbus, the surface paint-related findings had been thoroughly assessed by the company and confirmed by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and have no impact on the airworthiness of the A350. Airbus also stated that “the attempt by this customer to misrepresent this specific topic as an airworthiness issue represents a threat to the international protocols on safety matters.”

Airbus is seeking legal action against Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways CEO responds to Airbus

The awesome Danny Lee at the South China Morning Post has some statements from Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker about this situation. In an interview today, Al Baker stated that the business relationship between the airline and Airbus has been “destroyed.”

He stated that “we can always let the water pass under the bridge and move on,” but also added that “with Airbus the damage is very severe, I don’t know we will be able to work with them again.” Al Baker also referred to Airbus’ statement from last week as including “derogatory” remarks, and stated that Airbus should “come out and admit” that there are issues with the jet.

For the time being, Qatar Airways expects to ground even more Airbus A350 jets, and has plans to lease more aircraft (including Cathay Pacific 777s).

Qatar Airways had been eyeing an order for the new Airbus A350 freighter, but is now reconsidering:

“I was looking very positively at freighters. But they have destroyed that relationship. I don’t think that they will ever get a single size of order that we would have placed for the freighter. How would you expect me to ever do business again with a company that doesn’t care about the customer at all? It only cares about its financial statements and bottom line.”

Ouch! While these are quite some statements, I think the first thing above is key — Qatar Airways is willing to move on, presumably if the two companies can come to an agreement.

Qatar Airways has brought back A380s due to A350 issues

Bottom line

Qatar Airways and Airbus are having quite a dispute over the A350. Qatar Airways has claimed that the fuselage surface of the A350 is degrading at an accelerated rate, so the airline has grounded some of its A350 fleet, and won’t take delivery of more A350s until the issue is resolved. Meanwhile Airbus claims that these issues are just cosmetic.

Last week Airbus started pursuing legal action in this case, while Qatar Airways is now threatening to never do business with Airbus again. I’m curious to see how this plays out, given that the issue is continuing to escalate, and neither side is budging.

Merit of the case aside, it sure is a shame to see Qatar Airways ground so many of its gorgeous A350s, given what a wonderful passenger experience they offer.

How do you see this dispute between Airbus & Qatar Airways playing out?

Conversations (33)
The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
Type your response here.

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Anyone can comment, and your email address will not be published. Register to save your unique username and earn special OMAAT reputation perks!

  1. R. Krishnan Guest

    All around the world A350 is flying, issue is there. End of the day manufacture and EASA says airworthiness not effected keep flying.
    Now few questions to pilot , with due respect .
    1. Do you know how many layers of different composite materials used. How they joined together. Are you aware outer layer of composite materials is for safety, an additional layer so that load taking members not dammage if at all...

    All around the world A350 is flying, issue is there. End of the day manufacture and EASA says airworthiness not effected keep flying.
    Now few questions to pilot , with due respect .
    1. Do you know how many layers of different composite materials used. How they joined together. Are you aware outer layer of composite materials is for safety, an additional layer so that load taking members not dammage if at all some thing happened.
    2. Do you know what check ( NDT) carried out , as per manufacture instructions.
    3. Captain better cross check with your friends at different airlines how they are flying.
    4. Smartness good but over smart not good.
    5. What QA engineering / technical suggestion. What your quality control manager recommended.
    6. I request all to go for training once again for modern technology , especially composite materials airframe structure and NDT of different departments.
    7. What recommendation is from CTO ( chief technical officer).
    Money and muscle power is not everything . Respect manufacture and technology.

  2. Karel Buts Guest

    It only leaves you wondering
    What Baker really wants. All other airlines and Easa agree it's a cosmetic thing.

  3. GDB Guest

    As a Boeing shareholder I'm thrilled.

  4. Olga Schneider Guest

    The issue is totally different!
    Airbus denies to paint the A350 fleet newly >1year ago, with the adverb for the fifa world cup 2022.
    Because of this, the Mgmt is upset and see a chance to repaint the fleet while claiming of poor quality and safety.
    The A350 is the most economic plane in the sky. QA will lose too much money because of this sily behavior. One year ago, QA announced that a A380 will never airborn again?
    So where we are now? Too much politics !!

  5. Jared Guest

    The issue is not structural and nor does it pose a air worthiness issue. The paint is delaminating. There are multiple potential root causes, all around the compatibility between the carbon fiber fuselage, titanium rivets and the paint. One of the problems is that whereas the carbon fiber fuselage remains rigid during flight, the paint tends to shrink and expand during flying cycles (influenced by the temperature). As a result, delamination occurs due to debonding....

    The issue is not structural and nor does it pose a air worthiness issue. The paint is delaminating. There are multiple potential root causes, all around the compatibility between the carbon fiber fuselage, titanium rivets and the paint. One of the problems is that whereas the carbon fiber fuselage remains rigid during flight, the paint tends to shrink and expand during flying cycles (influenced by the temperature). As a result, delamination occurs due to debonding. There was one case (on a Finnair) where corroded or missing expanded copper foil has been observed in regions of delamination. However, we are unsure whether the damaged ECF is related to the paint delamination or an unrelated early manufacturing defect. Obviously the paint protects the ECF from oxidation and can be problem for the longevity of the aircraft. However, it doesn't pose an immediate problem.

  6. Israel Pineiro Jr Guest

    Airbus must do due diligence to get to the bottom of the issue. Don't tell me airbus is going to wait for a nose or a wing to fall off and kills everyone aboard before they say "oops seems there is a problem"! They are using carbon fiber aren't they. How much do they know of what could cause damage to this material? Is there a test that can be done to see how deep...

    Airbus must do due diligence to get to the bottom of the issue. Don't tell me airbus is going to wait for a nose or a wing to fall off and kills everyone aboard before they say "oops seems there is a problem"! They are using carbon fiber aren't they. How much do they know of what could cause damage to this material? Is there a test that can be done to see how deep these cracks go or how far around they go? Is there anything airbus could do to prove 100 percent that Qatar airways is nervous about nothing? Seems to me that Qatar airways is erring on the side of safety, and airbus is acting a lot like Boeing when the 1st 737 max was lost, nothing to see here, and then the 2nd plane went down and they were made to face the issue! Lets hope that Airbus is not doing the same because it can cost them dearly.

  7. Ken Guest

    I looked at the Reuters photos but I am not sure if I can call it a structural issue. But I am not an expert. What I don't understand is that if Al baker is right, then why don't we see any actions from Japan, Europe and USA. I understand eu can be protective of airbus but USA has no interest in protecting airbus... In general Al baker is a cheapo who wants to squeeze...

    I looked at the Reuters photos but I am not sure if I can call it a structural issue. But I am not an expert. What I don't understand is that if Al baker is right, then why don't we see any actions from Japan, Europe and USA. I understand eu can be protective of airbus but USA has no interest in protecting airbus... In general Al baker is a cheapo who wants to squeeze everything out of his business partners and benefit from them. When the demand dropped due to covid maybe he thought he can squeeze airbus for its paint issue and asked its government to ground a350s. Given the nature of their relationship I wouldn't be surprised if the qatari government just grounded a350s for the sake of Qatar airways. I am not saying this is happening but one possibility, a very likely one. In any case, no one wants another accident so hope they sort it out soon

  8. Donato Guest

    After viewing the photos there is an issue. It appears to be more than a simple paint issue. The explanation appears to be a thin outer skin in conjunction with the wire mesh is failing. While this is not a structural issue leading to catastrophic failure it is both an esthetic and maintenance issue. I can imagine pieces falling off in flight, even pieces on an active runway.
    If Boeing does not have this...

    After viewing the photos there is an issue. It appears to be more than a simple paint issue. The explanation appears to be a thin outer skin in conjunction with the wire mesh is failing. While this is not a structural issue leading to catastrophic failure it is both an esthetic and maintenance issue. I can imagine pieces falling off in flight, even pieces on an active runway.
    If Boeing does not have this issue obviously they build them differently. Airframes generally do not look that way after 3 years, they either have to resolve this issue, take them back or pay for super enhanced repairs over the airframe lifetime.

  9. JasonS Guest

    I disagree on the 737 Max issue, how anyone could say it is a software issue alone. All the news and documentaries I have seen basically say that the only thing that keeps the MAX relatively safe is the software, which overcomes the problem of the forward slung engines causing flight issues. It seems that the real issue is a design issue of moving the engines forward on the wing, instead of maybe redesigning the...

    I disagree on the 737 Max issue, how anyone could say it is a software issue alone. All the news and documentaries I have seen basically say that the only thing that keeps the MAX relatively safe is the software, which overcomes the problem of the forward slung engines causing flight issues. It seems that the real issue is a design issue of moving the engines forward on the wing, instead of maybe redesigning the aircraft with higher undercarriage clearance. The opinions I have heard are that it could be unsafe if the software fails and cannot be guaranteed to fly safely without the extra software. I would rather walk than fly on a MAX and never will.

  10. Zak Guest

    Remember in business the customer is always right. All your successful companies has followed the words to the Tee.

  11. john McDonald Guest

    I Think Qatar , takes great pride , in its airline , Safety, service and apperance ,of their product , is ,high priority,If
    it was me , and paying billions of dollars ,to airbus coffers, weather it is a safety issue or not , i would want it rectified , sooner ,rather than later, Even at a cost to airbus, you supplied it ,, you fix it , Happy customers , spend more money,...

    I Think Qatar , takes great pride , in its airline , Safety, service and apperance ,of their product , is ,high priority,If
    it was me , and paying billions of dollars ,to airbus coffers, weather it is a safety issue or not , i would want it rectified , sooner ,rather than later, Even at a cost to airbus, you supplied it ,, you fix it , Happy customers , spend more money, you will get it back ,in the end The A350 IS A STUNNING AIRCRAFT, Dont slaughter it by being stubborn, Please for the sake of a great customer, and a great aircraft, find some middle ground , sort the issues , Legal Action is a lame solution, sit around a table ,and sort it out ,once and for all , Keep Qatar buying airbus product, And get these beautiful birds ,where they should be (flying)

  12. Red Guest

    They critíquese Airbus for a year delay on their A350s, yet they are fine with a 3 year minimum delay on the 77X… wow.

  13. Flieger Guest

    This is such poor business acumen. Qatar Airways declaring war on Airbus for what? Some paint issues? I flew on a CRJ900 just last week where the paint came off at the wings the size of my hand. And what´s next? Qatar will walk into a monopolistic situation with Boeing because Airbus doesnt recoat his planes for free? What an exceptionally poor business acumen this is.

    1. Ryan Guest

      You clearly haven't looked into the issue, or grasped how serious it may be. It truly is not just cosmetic when the integrity of the plane to handle strikes is of concern.

  14. Johnny Jones Guest

    This has shades of the 737MAX... The Euro agency responsible for oversight of a Euro manufacturer says there is nothing wrong with the flagship Euro plane.

    Let's hope they get to the bottom of this and solve the problem before tragedy strikes. (If there is a problem.)

    1. Eskimo Guest

      And from what we learn on 737MAX tragedy and Covid, if the Chinese's zero tolerance policy still allows the A350 to fly, it's probably safe to fly.

      While it might coincidentally be because CAAC is working slowly, but the Chinese cleared the MAX in early December. What about the FAA? last year. EASA? January. CAAC is among the first to ground and among the last to clear the MAX.

      Forget about your EASA conspiracy theory. On air worthiness, I'll go with the Chinese.

    2. John Guest

      @Eskimo

      Covid 19 is a virus. It is not a passenger aircraft. Indeed, it's not any type of aircraft. It's a virus. And please continue trusting the Chinese Gov't. I'm sure they're completely worthy of your trust.

    3. Eskimo Guest

      @John

      Reading comprehension John, comprehension. Most people are not professional writers. You should expect some ambiguity. Good news is you're lucky I like to work with people who have intellectual disability.

      So let me explain it so a 2nd grader AOC would understand.
      The 737MAX and Covid are referring to the events not the actual plane or virus. These two modifies the zero tolerance policy.

      And yes, on airworthiness, the Chinese government are worthy...

      @John

      Reading comprehension John, comprehension. Most people are not professional writers. You should expect some ambiguity. Good news is you're lucky I like to work with people who have intellectual disability.

      So let me explain it so a 2nd grader AOC would understand.
      The 737MAX and Covid are referring to the events not the actual plane or virus. These two modifies the zero tolerance policy.

      And yes, on airworthiness, the Chinese government are worthy of my trust. Which doesn't mean I do or do not trust the Chinese on other matters besides air worthiness.

    4. Another Lump Guest

      Your faith in the Chinese government means everything else you say can safely be ignored. Nobody with full cognitive abilities would utter such nonsense. It's a sad commentary on the current political climate.

      Enjoy serving your new masters.

    5. Eskimo Guest

      @Jance

      Your reply doesn't add any value to this conversation.
      At least blindly following Western propaganda such as @Another Lump is providing evidence that propaganda does work on both ends. Thus, this is having no different in cognitive abilities.

      @Another Lump probably watches Fox News and believes it 100% true, while everything CNN says is fake. Reality is, both are as real and as fake as CCTV or RT or Al Jazeera depending on...

      @Jance

      Your reply doesn't add any value to this conversation.
      At least blindly following Western propaganda such as @Another Lump is providing evidence that propaganda does work on both ends. Thus, this is having no different in cognitive abilities.

      @Another Lump probably watches Fox News and believes it 100% true, while everything CNN says is fake. Reality is, both are as real and as fake as CCTV or RT or Al Jazeera depending on the topic.

      The sad commentary on the current political climate is that educated people still fall for all these propaganda and fake news.

  15. Nelson Guest

    The major issue here is the one QR has had for ages, they are in a big need of a new CEO!

    1. Luke Guest

      Like him or not, Al Baker and his obsession with details is what made QR what it is. Cant imagine what someone else would do.

    2. Nelson Guest

      Anyone would do the same as in that region money isn't an issue.

  16. Tim Dunn Diamond

    If Boeing were actually able to deliver new widebody aircraft in a reasonable manner, Qatar would have some teeth in its complaints both in the short and long term.
    QR is able to soak up plenty of grounded widebody capacity but that won't be the case long-term.
    Other airlines are capable of figuring out the stakes involved with the A350 paint issue. Airbus is certainly going to fix the problem or help airlines do so.

  17. Davis Guest

    There is a Reuters article out there with images of the fuselages of the affected aircraft. They look bad…. very bad. Until Airbus can explain to Qatar why they can see metal mesh and damaged outer layers of the fuselage, I can’t blame them for not wanting to fly the aircraft.

    Article is titled “Costly Airbus paint flaw goes wider than the Gulf”

    1. Ray Guest

      Thanks, just looked it up. Indeed, it does look bad. I still don't understand how come they're the only airline so far to report issues, with nothing from other large operators like Delta, Cathay, and Singapore...?

    2. Steve Diamond

      Finair has reported the same problems on some of their a350s. Cathay and Lufthansa have all cited some ‘cosmetic damage’ on their A350s.

      https://simpleflying.com/a-new-layer-to-the-a350-paint-saga-more-airlines-raise-concerns/

    3. Dick Bupkiss Guest

      Thanks for the pointer. Everyone should go google the title, read the article, and take a look at the photos. As a pilot myself, I found the images absolutely shocking.

      The photos do not show "cosmetic flaws" or "paint issues" -- they show a string of obvious structural disasters waiting to happen. There's a lot of discussion about the exposed mesh, which is protection against the impact of lightning strikes. Lightning, schmitening... Lightning strikes would...

      Thanks for the pointer. Everyone should go google the title, read the article, and take a look at the photos. As a pilot myself, I found the images absolutely shocking.

      The photos do not show "cosmetic flaws" or "paint issues" -- they show a string of obvious structural disasters waiting to happen. There's a lot of discussion about the exposed mesh, which is protection against the impact of lightning strikes. Lightning, schmitening... Lightning strikes would be way down my list of concerns on this -- I'm more worried about the fuselage coming apart. I'd like to find out more about exactly where (on the airframe) these issues are occurring. If these issues are common on A350s, in critical parts of the airframe that are exposed to the airstream (and honestly, what isn't?) then the whole fleet should be grounded.

      Calling this merely "cosmetic" seems like Boeing calling it's 737MAX troubles "a minor software glitch".

      Maybe it's "just cosmetic" when the plane is sitting on the ground and not moving. But when subject to high speeds, I'd seriously worry about the skin starting to come apart. Go take a look at the photos and picture that skin moving through the air at over 500 mph. The force of the airflow at high speeds is incredibly strong, and personally, I'm going to have to think long and hard before I get on another A350 (it's a shame, the plane does provide a great passenger experience that I've enjoyed).

      BTW, it's not just Qatar (it's CEO is a clown, but in this case, I'd take this seriously). Finnair, Cathay Pacific, Ethiad, Lufthansa and Air France also reported issues. This seems like it should be a hair-on-fire situation for Airbus.

      I don't spook easily. This scares me. Yikes.

    4. Eskimo Guest

      Funny enough, after reading about your fears, it seems that you're implying that the only thing that keeps the A350 from breaking apart is a thin layer of paint.

      I mean if paint is really the only thing keeping the A350 together, then there should be bigger things to worry about.

      While I personally conclude that the material doesn't hold the paint. I still can't draw any conclusion that exposed skin will cause the structure...

      Funny enough, after reading about your fears, it seems that you're implying that the only thing that keeps the A350 from breaking apart is a thin layer of paint.

      I mean if paint is really the only thing keeping the A350 together, then there should be bigger things to worry about.

      While I personally conclude that the material doesn't hold the paint. I still can't draw any conclusion that exposed skin will cause the structure to fail.

      If Boeing can get paint to stick on 787, I don't think it would be a problem for Airbus either. Or inversely, you should be as scared on a 787 as a 350.

      You're forgetting that Akbar Al Baker is a drama queen.
      And not paying for airplanes saves a lot of money.

      And yes 737MAX problem is just a software glitch, a deadly one but purely software.

    5. Dick Bupkiss Guest

      Utter nonsense. You clearly do not understand 1) the point I tried to make above, and/or 2) the stresses on exposed aircraft components when subjected to flight conditions, and/or 3) the potential consequences. Or you're just trying to be a complete a..., possibly All Of The Above.

      The lack of paint/peeling paint isn't an issue itself. What's a BIG issue is what is going to happen when that 500+ mph airflow gets "under" (behind)...

      Utter nonsense. You clearly do not understand 1) the point I tried to make above, and/or 2) the stresses on exposed aircraft components when subjected to flight conditions, and/or 3) the potential consequences. Or you're just trying to be a complete a..., possibly All Of The Above.

      The lack of paint/peeling paint isn't an issue itself. What's a BIG issue is what is going to happen when that 500+ mph airflow gets "under" (behind) some of the exposed bits. 500 mph airflow will peel off and bend and separate plenty of more important things than paint. When the airframe starts shedding various random parts -- even if those parts alone are not critical to flight safety -- where are they gonna go? Some of them will impact other parts of the plane -- it's engines (paging Captain Sully...) , the flight controls and/or systems that make them work (see: United 232 crash Sioux City), and potentially anything else "downstream" (remember the Space Shuttle Columbia? - a piece of loose insulating FOAM that broke off during it's launch caused that disaster). That high-speed airflow will eventually get under something and pieces ARE going to start coming off the airframe. Not good. Not just "ugly". Even if the loose pieces don't bring down the A350 that sheds them, what about other planes that might encounter them (see the Air France 4590 disaster that ended the Concorde program)? Go take a look at the photos. If they are real and accurately reflect what's happening...yikes yikes yikes.

      FWIW, the 737MAX suffered from a lot more than a software glitch -- incredibly bad management, poor decisions, hubris, and much more. If you really think that was just a software glitch -- well, you've said a lot about yourself and nobody else needs to add to that.

  18. Mike Guest

    It feels like if this was really a safety issue you would see more widespread groundings. Seems like a legitimate problem but one that Airbus is probably right is largely cosmetic.

    1. Airfarer Gold

      Cometic as far as an engineer is concerned. Most people wouldn't be so sanguine about boarding a plane with paint falling off.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Dick Bupkiss Guest

Thanks for the pointer. Everyone should go google the title, read the article, and take a look at the photos. As a pilot myself, I found the images absolutely shocking. The photos do not show "cosmetic flaws" or "paint issues" -- they show a string of obvious structural disasters waiting to happen. There's a lot of discussion about the exposed mesh, which is protection against the impact of lightning strikes. Lightning, schmitening... Lightning strikes would be way down my list of concerns on this -- I'm more worried about the fuselage coming apart. I'd like to find out more about exactly where (on the airframe) these issues are occurring. If these issues are common on A350s, in critical parts of the airframe that are exposed to the airstream (and honestly, what isn't?) then the whole fleet should be grounded. Calling this merely "cosmetic" seems like Boeing calling it's 737MAX troubles "a minor software glitch". Maybe it's "just cosmetic" when the plane is sitting on the ground and not moving. But when subject to high speeds, I'd seriously worry about the skin starting to come apart. Go take a look at the photos and picture that skin moving through the air at over 500 mph. The force of the airflow at high speeds is incredibly strong, and personally, I'm going to have to think long and hard before I get on another A350 (it's a shame, the plane does provide a great passenger experience that I've enjoyed). BTW, it's not just Qatar (it's CEO is a clown, but in this case, I'd take this seriously). Finnair, Cathay Pacific, Ethiad, Lufthansa and Air France also reported issues. This seems like it should be a hair-on-fire situation for Airbus. I don't spook easily. This scares me. Yikes.

4
Davis Guest

There is a Reuters article out there with images of the fuselages of the affected aircraft. They look bad…. very bad. Until Airbus can explain to Qatar why they can see metal mesh and damaged outer layers of the fuselage, I can’t blame them for not wanting to fly the aircraft. Article is titled “Costly Airbus paint flaw goes wider than the Gulf”

4
Israel Pineiro Jr Guest

Airbus must do due diligence to get to the bottom of the issue. Don't tell me airbus is going to wait for a nose or a wing to fall off and kills everyone aboard before they say "oops seems there is a problem"! They are using carbon fiber aren't they. How much do they know of what could cause damage to this material? Is there a test that can be done to see how deep these cracks go or how far around they go? Is there anything airbus could do to prove 100 percent that Qatar airways is nervous about nothing? Seems to me that Qatar airways is erring on the side of safety, and airbus is acting a lot like Boeing when the 1st 737 max was lost, nothing to see here, and then the 2nd plane went down and they were made to face the issue! Lets hope that Airbus is not doing the same because it can cost them dearly.

1
Meet Ben Schlappig, OMAAT Founder
4,523,713 Miles Traveled

25,807,500 Words Written

28,675 Posts Published

Keep Exploring OMAAT