In comments made to the South China Morning Post, the Qatar Airways CEO said the damage with Airbus was ‘severe.’
Qatar Airways is expected to ground more of its Airbus A350 jets over the jets’ surface flaws, with CEO Akbar Al Baker accusing the European aerospace company of having “destroyed” its relationship with the Gulf carrier in exclusive comments made to the South China Morning Post.
Al Baker said on Tuesday that Qatar was also planning to lease a significant number of jets, including Cathay Pacific 777s, to make up for the grounded planes, but said it would be hard to fix the damaged relationship with Airbus.
The chief added that “we can always let the water pass under the bridge and move on,” but “with Airbus the damage is very severe, I don’t know we will be able to work with them again.”
The Qatar Airways CEO also made mention of Airbus’ recent statement as including “derogatory” remarks, and renewed his calls for Airbus to “come out and admit” that there are faults in the jet.
“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,” said Al Baker.
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.”
The carrier had reported a “significant condition” across its A350 fleet, were “the fuselage surface below the paint is degrading at an accelerated rate.”
Qatar’s national carrier said it is progressively grounding its fleet of 53 A350s on orders from its regulator.
Al Baker confirmed that the Gulf national carrier had grounded 20 A350 jets thus far in the long dispute mainly over damage that had also prompted Qatar Airways to halt further deliveries in June.
This left Qatar Airways with an aircraft shortage, and the airline resorting to bring back the A380 as a result.
Qatar Airways is one of Airbus’ biggest customers, and was even the launch customer of the A350 as well as its largest purchaser.
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.
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.” Airbus accused the Qatari airlines of misrepresenting the problem as a safety issue and refusing to accept a repair plan.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) 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”.
The proposed caution notification is the first time manufacturing has caught the attention of regulators after months of turbulence in the aviation industry over surface defects on the A350, which its manufacturer, Airbus, says are still safe to fly.
The European regulator said in an airworthiness ruling proposal that ECF, which was used as a lightning-conductor on the A350s, may not have been properly placed on the wing covers of 13 jets.
EASA said the EFC defect, alongside an installation flaw in an adjacent fastener, would lead to fuel vapor catching fire and a “consequent loss” of the jet in the case of a heavy lightening strike.