What is behind the legal dispute between Qatar Airways and Airbus? | Explainer News

Qatar Airways is seeking $ 618 million in damages, plus $ 4 million a day after grounding 21 A350s due to safety concerns.

Qatar Airways has been locked up for months in a legal dispute with European airline maker Airbus over “serious and legitimate safety concerns” following the delivery of A350 aircraft.

Qatar’s state-owned airline is seeking compensation, saying defective planes have forced it to suspend 21 of its fleet of 53 Airbus A350s from both the 1000 and 900 series.

Here are some key facts:

How did the dispute start?

Qatar’s national carrier has expressed concern about the condition of its A350 in November 2020, when an attempt to repaint a five-year-old plane in World Cup livery revealed about 980 defects.

According to a Reuters investigation, at least five other airlines, including Finnair, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Lufthansa and Air France, expressed concern in 2016 – long before Qatar Airways – but did not stop their planes on the ground.

France-based Airbus acknowledged that the shortcomings need to be addressed, insisting they are cosmetic problems and do not jeopardize safety.

Qatar Airways said Airbus had failed to provide a full analysis of the root causes needed to address unresolved airworthiness issues for the affected aircraft, including the lightning protection system.

On December 20 last year, Qatar Airways filed a lawsuit against Airbus in the UK. The case is due to be heard at the end of April.

What are the problems?

The airline’s complaint said the paint on the recently delivered Airbus A350 was cracking and flaking, revealing copper nets used to insulate the plane against lightning strikes.

He posted a video on social media on Friday of scars on the outside of the landed A350 planes.

The video shows areas of peeling or missing paint, cracks and lightning protection, as well as what the airline describes as carbon fiber stains that have been exposed to moisture and potentially harmful ultraviolet light.

The lightweight carbon fiber jetliner relies on metal foil embedded under the paint to help lightning pass safely over the fuselage, which is less conductive than the previous metal.

The video shows flakes from the copper-mesh lightning system, which must be fixed to the plane with resin, which loosens when the paint has been irritated from hand to glove.

cracked paint up closeAn undated image shows peeling paint, cracking and exposed expanded copper foil on the fuselage of a Q3ar Airways A350 aircraft [Image obtained by Reuters]

What does the airline require?

Qatar Airways is demanding $ 618 million in compensation, plus $ 4 million a day, and has stopped receiving another 23 A350s.

His lawsuit details how the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) began revoking flight permits for individual A350 aircraft in a series of letters from June 2021.

The QCAA told Airbus that the plane’s deterioration was “embarrassing, if not alarming.”

Airbus has said it will fight the allegation, saying there is “no reasonable or rational basis” for grounding that has not happened elsewhere.

What is the position of Airbus?

Airbus says it is considering changing the design of the lightning network for the future A350, but insists there is adequate backup lightning protection. It says Qatar Airways is undermining global protocols by seeking to influence safety.

Airbus says it has provided relevant information and has concluded that there is no risk to airworthiness, an opinion expressed by the European aviation regulator.

On Friday, Airbus canceled a $ 6 billion contract with Qatar Airways for 50 of its new A321neo passenger planes, escalating a lawsuit.

Q3ar Airways A350 aircraftQatar Airways Airbus A350 at Berlin Airport [File: Odd Andersen/AFP]

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