Qatar Airways and Airbus have been going head-to-head since last year 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 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.
During the latest court hearing, Airbus claimed that Qatar Airways “sought to engineer or has acquiesced” in the groundings based on its economic interest as a result of the pandemic’s impact on demand.
The contract terminated by Airbus is separate from the initial dispute over A350’s. In 2011, Qatar Airways had placed an order for A320neos in a $6.35 billion deal.
Airbus’s decision to terminate its contract with Qatar Airways has been described as a “rare move” in the aviation industry and may be the first time an aircraft manufacturer cancels an order placed by an airline.
Qatar Airways is expected to fight Airbus’s decision as it continues to plan to receive the jets despite its dispute with the plane manufacturer over A350s. Its first A321neo was expected to be delivered in February 2023.
Furthermore, 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.
Additionally, the legal claim included $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.
Moreover, Qatar Airways brought back part of its Airbus A380 fleet in November to meet passengers’ demands.