Grounded Airbus A350s Force Qatar Airways Into U-Turn On A380s

Qatar Airways Airbus A380
Credit: Airbus

Qatar Airways is bringing some of its Airbus A380s back into service, as the airline seeks to offset capacity shortfalls caused by the grounding of its A350s.

The Doha-based company’s fleet of 13 A350s was removed from schedules in early August as the result of what the airline described as a problem with the aircraft’s skin. 

Qatar Airways said the fuselage surface of its A350s is “degrading at an accelerated rate” under its paint and the aircraft will not be reinstated until Airbus comes up with a solution to the problem.

The airline said at the time that it had grounded the aircraft at the request of the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority. “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 carrier’s Group CEO Akbar Al Baker said.

Qatar Airways grounded its 10-strong A380 fleet near the start of the pandemic, with Al Baker saying it was fuel-inefficient and “one of the worst aircraft when it comes to emissions.” He added at a CAPA live online conference in January 2021 that the airline would only return five of them to service, permanently retiring the remainder.

The onset of the pandemic also saw the company grounding its fleet of 18 A330s. 

However, the problem with the A350s has apparently forced Qatar Airways to revise its plans.

“As a result of the grounding of a significant number of Qatar Airways’ Airbus A350 fleet by our regulator due to an ongoing issue relating to the fuselage surface below the paint, which is degrading at an accelerated rate, we have been left with no alternative but to bring a small number of our A380 fleet, in addition to some A330 aircraft, back into operation,” the company said in a statement to Aviation Daily Sept. 30. “This is to alleviate the current fleet challenges and support the anticipated increase in capacity requirements for our winter schedule.”

The airline declined to offer further details about the situation.

Alan Dron

Based in London, Alan is Europe & Middle East correspondent at Air Transport World.


1 Comment
For as long as I recall aircraft skin did refer to a light weight metal mostly aluminum also some area stainless steel. Now non metal composite resin base materials are now called skin. A350 may be all or in part composite materials. If composite materials are under the "Spotlight" degrading rapidly the airline industry is in for a very rude awakening.