Qatar Airways seeks $618 million in compensation in dispute with Airbus

Qatar Airways seeks $618 million in compensation in dispute with Airbus
Qatar Airways seeks $618 million in compensation in dispute with Airbus

An undated photo shows what appears to be peeling paint, cracks and copper chips appearing on the window of a Qatar Airways A350 aircraft that has been decommissioned by the airline. Reuters photo. reuters_tickers

This content was published on 07 Jan 2022 – 01:33 Jul,

January 07 2022 – 01:33

PARIS/LONDON (Reuters) – Qatar Airways is seeking $618 million in damages from plane maker Airbus over defective surfaces in the A350 planes, a court document showed on Thursday, highlighting an escalating trade dispute costing up to $4 million a day.

The airline is also asking a court in Britain to order France-based Airbus not to deliver any more planes until what it says is a design flaw is fixed.

The two companies have been feuding for months over damages including paint flaws, cracked window frames and erosion of the under-roof layer against lightning strikes.

The airline says Qatar’s regulator ordered it grounded 21 of its 53 A350s as problems began to emerge, sparking a bitter dispute with Airbus, which has acknowledged technical problems but says there is no safety issue.

The document revealed financial and technical details related to the rare legal dispute to be heard by a circuit of the High Court in London, where Qatar Airways filed the lawsuit against Airbus in December.

The airline is seeking compensation of $618 million from Airbus for stopping the use of the damaged aircraft, in addition to an additional compensation of four million dollars for each day it stops operating the 21 aircraft of this model.

The claims include $76 million in damages related to just one five-year-old plane that was due to be repainted with advertising materials for the 2022 World Cup, which Qatar is hosting this year.

Industry sources said the plane has been parked in France for a year and needs 980 repair patches after a scrapped repainting process revealed gaps in the lightning protection layer.

The Qatari airline, the largest customer of the European plane, says that Airbus has failed to provide a comprehensive analysis showing the root causes of the problem.

The planes of this model have a copper grille under the coating to prevent lightning – which strikes planes once a year on average – from damaging the carbon fuselage.

* Breakdown in relationships

Airbus said it has recognized the cause and will “deny” the company’s allegations in court. It also accused the airline of trying to wrongly portray the problems as safety related.

“Airbus confirms that there is no airworthiness issue,” an Airbus spokesperson said, adding that this was a confirmed view of European regulators.

Shares of the European aircraft maker closed down 1.5 percent.

There was no immediate comment from Qatar Airways, which has ordered a total of 80 aircraft of this model.

The Gulf airline has long been notorious for its high demands, and has previously refused to take delivery of planes due to quality reasons.

But the 30-page complaint details an unusual breakdown in relations between two of the aviation industry’s most powerful players.

The row widened in November when a Reuters investigation revealed that at least five other airlines had discovered surface defects, prompting Airbus to set up an internal working group and explore a new lightning-proof design for future A350s.

Qatar is the only country so far that has grounded some aircraft.

The complaint details how Qatar’s General Civil Aviation Authority withdrew approval of individual A350 aircraft in a series of letters from June 2021.

It says the authority has told the airline that damage to the aircraft is a matter of concern. The agency also expressed grave concern about the jeopardy of safety due to the lack of a permanent analysis or treatment.

This is the first evidence of the position of the Qatari regulator, which did not issue a public comment. In contrast, the European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency said it had not yet found evidence of problems with the plane’s airworthiness.

Airbus appeared to question the independence of the General Civil Aviation Authority from the state-owned aviation police, saying that the decision to put safety in a technical matter puts global safety protocols at risk.

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker stressed in November that the authority was driving safety decisions and that the dispute had seriously damaged operations.

The airline has begun bringing its A380s back from retirement in preparation for the World Cup soccer tournament.

(Prepared by Ayman Saad Muslim, Ahmed Al-Sayed and Duaa Muhammad for the Arabic Bulletin)

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