Qatar Airways grounds A350s in growing dispute with Airbus

Qatar Airways has grounded a growing number of its Airbus A350 fleet owing to damage to the fuselage and, amid a growing dispute with Airbus, confirmed postponement of further deliveries of the aircraft.

Gulf carrier Qatar announced the removal of 13 A350s from service today after safety checks found “the fuselage surface below the paint is degrading at an accelerated rate”.

Qatar first reported a problem with the A350 in early June when it said the surface below the paint on some of its A350s was deteriorating faster than expected.

The issue emerged when the paint on a four-year-old A350 was stripped away for the aircraft to be repainted in the colours of the 2022 World Cup to be held in Qatar.

Qatar grounded some of its A350s at the time “until the condition can be understood and corrected”, without saying how many, and said it would inspect the rest of the fleet more frequently.

The carrier said the 13 aircraft will remain grounded “until such time as the root cause can be established and a satisfactory solution made available to permanently correct the underlying condition”.

In a statement, Qatar said: “The safety and security of passengers remains Qatar Airways’ primary concern.

“The airline will do all it can to ensure its passengers are not inconvenienced by the mandated removal of these aircraft from service and will endeavour to find alternative solutions to offer the usual high standard of service to all passengers.”

The carrier said it would use its A330 fleet of aircraft replace the A350s and is “presently looking at other solutions”.

Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways group chief executive, said: “We sincerely expect that Airbus treats this matter with the proper attention that it requires.

“Qatar Airways will not accept anything other than aircraft that continue to offer its customers the highest possible standard of safety and the best travel experience.

“Qatar Airways expects Airbus to have established the root cause and permanently corrected the underlying condition to the satisfaction of Qatar Airways and our regulator before we take delivery of any further A350 aircraft.”

The A350 grounding comes just as Qatar is about to join the UK amber list of countries allowing fully vaccinated travellers to enter Britain without quarantine restrictions.

The country was previously on the red list. It changes from 4am on Sunday.

Qatar was the first A350 customer and is Airbus’s biggest. It has 53 of the aircraft with 23 more on order.

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