Airbus confirmed Friday that it has canceled an order for 50 A321neos from Qatar Airways amid an escalating dispute over surface degradation on some of Qatar’s A350s. The contract, which called for first deliveries in 2023, originally specified 40 smaller A320neos and was renegotiated in 2017 to increase the number and size of airplanes to 50 A321neos.
Meanwhile, the High Court in London has scheduled a court case to start in April over Qatar’s A350 claims. The airline seeks $600 million in damages it claims to have incurred during the continued grounding of some 20 of the widebodies.
“We confirm we did terminate the contract for 50 A321s with Qatar Airways in accordance with our rights," said the company in a written statement. It would offer no further comment on the court case.
Following comments from Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker suggesting that the problem with the A350 affects other operators as well and that Airbus did not understand the underlying cause, the manufacturer in early December said it would seek “an independent legal assessment” to address what it characterized as an ongoing mischaracterization of surface degradation among the Qatari flag carrier’s A350 fleet. Qatar grounded the Airbus A350s ostensibly due to what it called an “accelerated” condition affecting the surface of the composite aircraft below the paint, as mandated by the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA). As a result, the national airline reintroduced to temporary service five of its 10 grounded Airbus A380s due to what it called a capacity shortage caused by its grounding of A350s.
Airbus, however, insisted that it thoroughly assessed the surface paint-related findings and that the European Aviation Safety Agency confirmed it presented no airworthiness issue for the A350 fleet.
“The attempt by this customer to misrepresent this specific topic as an airworthiness issue represents a threat to the international protocols on safety matters,” said Airbus in a December 9 statement, without naming Qatar Airways directly.