Qatar Raises Unusual A350 Concern

Qatar Airways has operated the A350 since 2014.
Credit: Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways has said it won’t take any more Airbus A350s until certain technical issues are resolved.

The airline said that it had followed the “explicit written instruction of its regulator” and removed 13 A350s from service because “the fuselage surface below the paint is degrading at an accelerated rate”.

To fill the gap caused by the withdrawals, Qatar said it had taken action to return A330s to service “with immediate effect” and that it was also looking at other solutions.

“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,” said airline chief executive Akbar Al Baker.

Al Baker has a spicy history of using technical issues to put pressure on OEMs, although that may not be the case here.

For one thing, in September the airline said it had agreed with Airbus to defer further deliveries until 2022, although – somewhat confusingly – it did receive some A350s a month later.

On the other hand, this is the first time that this technical problem has been raised.

“We have not seen this concern shared by any other airworthiness authority or by any other airline, nor has Airbus told us that there's any reason for concern there,” said John Plueger, the chief executive of Air Lease, which has A350s although not any on lease to Qatar Airways.

Airbus has not commented on the matter, stating: "We do not comment on our customers operations. As a leading aircraft manufacturer, we are always in talks with our customers. Those talks we keep confidential.”

Alex Derber

Alex Derber, a UK-based aviation journalist, is editor of the Engine Yearbook and a contributor to Aviation Week and Inside MRO.