Airbus cancels $6bn contract with Qatar Airways for 50 A321neo jets

Jan 22, 2022: Airbus has cancelled a $6 billion deal with Qatar Airways for its 50 new A321neo passenger jets, sparking a legal battle between the two companies over paint on the recently delivered A350s.

Qatar Airways on Friday called Airbus’ decision “a matter of great regret and frustration.”

In December, Qatar Airways took Airbus to court in London over alleged problems with the Airbus A350. The airline complained that the paint of the recently delivered Airbus A350s was cracking and peeling, exposing the copper nets that were used to prevent the plane from being struck by lightning. It is seeking more than 600 million in compensation after grounding the affected aircraft – 21 of its 53 A350 jets – claiming that the paint problem is a safety hazard.

The deal was reportedly worth $6.35 billion when it was finalized in December 2017.

Qatar Airways on Friday posted on social media a video of the stained exterior of the Ground A350 jets, in which the airline said “serious and legitimate safety concerns” had been emphasized.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency independently assessed the issue and found no safety concerns.

“There is no reasonable or rational basis” for Qatari regulators to have grounded the A350s operated by Qatar Airways, Airbus said in documents prepared for a London court hearing on Thursday.

They accused Qatar Airways of inciting the grounding because it was in their own financial interest to keep the plane on the ground in light of the Corona virus pandemic. Qatar Airways denied the allegations in a statement on Friday. “These defects are not superficial and one of the defects is to expose and damage the aircraft’s electrical protection system,” he said. “We urge Airbus to perform a satisfactory basic analysis of the cause of the malfunction.”

A Reuters investigation reveals that at least five other airlines have reported A350 paint or skin defects since 2016, before Qatar reopened the jet in November 2020 when an attempt to repaint a jet in World Cup livery exposed some 980 defects.

Airbus has said it is looking at changing the design of anti-lightning mesh for future A350s, but insisted there is adequate backup lightning protection. It says Qatar is undermining global protocols by seeking leverage over safety.

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