UPDATE – The boomerang has flung back on Airbus’ desk: Qatar Airways has issued legal proceedings at the London High Court against the European airframer over the A350 paint quality issue, the airline said in a statement on December 20. Qatar Airways goes to court in A350 saga.

Two weeks after Airbus said it was seriously considering seeking an independent legal assessment of the case, but also said it was open to further discussions to solve the matter, Qatar Airways has firmly closed the door.

“We have sadly failed in all our attempts to reach a constructive solution with Airbus in relation to the accelerated surface degradation condition adversely impacting the Airbus A350 aircraft. Qatar Airways has therefore been left with no alternative but to seek a rapid resolution of this dispute via the courts.”

The airline says it has now grounded 21 A350s with paint peeling and degradation of the composite service, one more than Group CEO Akbar Al Baker mentioned on November 30 during his Aviation Club UK remarks. And even eight more than in August, when Qatar released its first press statement on the issue to share its dismay. In the opinion of the airline, Airbus has failed to take the degradation seriously.

“The legal proceedings have been commenced to ensure that Airbus will now address our legitimate concerns without further delay”, the Qatar Airways statement says. “We strongly believe that Airbus must undertake a thorough investigation of this condition to conclusively establish its full root cause. Without a proper understanding of the root cause of the condition, it is not possible for Qatar Airways to establish whether any proposed repair solution will rectify the underlying condition.”

Airbus worried about A350 reputation

In its statement on December 9, Airbus said that by making “inaccurate statements”, Qatar Airways continued to portray the issue as a safety issue: “The surface paint-related findings have been thoroughly assessed by Airbus and confirmed by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) as having no airworthiness impact on the A350 fleet.” More importantly, the remarks were damaging to the reputation of the A350.

The OEM said it has tried to find a solution on numerous occasions, but the airline wasn’t receptive to any suggestions that included repainting the affected A350s. In a statement late on Monday evening, Airbus said:

“Airbus received a formal legal claim in the English courts filed by Qatar Airways, relating to the dispute over the degradation of surface and paint on certain of Qatar Airways’ A350XWB aircraft. Airbus is in the process of analyzing the contents of the claim. Airbus intends to vigorously defend its position.”

It’s now for the London High Court to understand the intricacies of the behavior of paint on a composite structure and its degradation. No date for a hearing has been announced.

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Active as journalist since 1987, starting with regional newspaper Zwolse Courant. Grand Prix reporter in 1997 at Dutch monthly Formule 1, general reporter Lelystad/Flevoland at De Stentor/Dagblad Flevoland, from 2002 until June 2021 radio/tv reporter/presentor with Omroep Flevoland.
Since mid-2016 freelance aviation journalist, since June 2021 fully dedicated to aviation. Reporter/editor AirInsight since December 2018. Contributor to Airliner World, Piloot & Vliegtuig. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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