The defects on the surface of Airbus A350 jets caused Qatar Airways to stop deliveries via the freighter.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker has called on European multinational aerospace corporation Airbus to admit to the surface defects of its A350 jets and ruled out buying freighters from the company, effectively closing a potential deal to rival company Boeing.
Al Baker 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.
“Qatar Airways cannot sit with its arms folded and legs crossed. We need to solve it. Airbus has made a very large dent in our widebody operations,” said Al Baker.
“It is a serious matter; we don’t know if it is an airworthiness issue; we also don’t know that it is not an airworthiness issue. The real cause of it has not been established by Airbus,” he told The Aviation Club in the UK.
“Now they have, at last, accepted that there are other airlines, several of them that have the same condition.”
In June, 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.”
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 aerospace company had previously claimed that the issue was only found with the Qatari airline. Airbus claims that the A350 is safe for use that that the company was aware of the source of the issues.
Al Baker also revealed that Qatar’s national carrier was close to placing an order for as many as 50 Boeing 777X cargo freighters.
Qatar Airways currently boasts 60 of the 777X passenger planes on order and may swap some of those for the freighter model.
This came after the Qatar Airways chief said the airline was looking at an “attractive proposition from Boeing” in November.
Al Baker also expressed concerns over copper foil used as a lightning-conductor on the A350’s body which caused paint peeling.
Airbus confirmed it was looking into updating its lightning system to a more flexible material, Perforated Copper Foil.
“They have acknowledged that they are working to find a solution, which means they still don’t have a solution, and they don’t have a solution because they still don’t know why it is happening. You know it is always better when there is a problem to admit, not to put your customer in a corner and blame them for something which is actually your own problem,” aid Al Baker.
Al Baker suggested that plans to change the A350’s lightning system, known as Expanded Copper Foil, with any new material, may require certification.
Qatar’s national carrier said it is progressively grounding its fleet of 53 A350s on orders from its regulator. Qatar Airways is the only airline to ground the jets thus far.