Qatar Airways forced to ground 13 A350s

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(PHOTO: Qatar)

Qatar Airways said on Thursday (5 August) that it was forced by regulators to ground 13 Airbus A350s over what it described as fuselages “degrading at an accelerated rate”. The fault and grounding are likely to worsen relations between the Middle East carrier and manufacturer Airbus.

“With this latest development, we sincerely expect that Airbus treats this matter with the proper attention that it requires,” Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said in a statement announcing the regulator’s grounding of the jets. “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,” he added. Al Baker has in the past criticised both Airbus and Boeing for perceived shortcomings in quality and has threatened to postpone deliveries of planes on order if the manufacturers don’t meet his standards.

Airbus declined to specifically discuss the announcement on Qatar Airways’ decision to ground the aircraft, but the move by regulators to force the grounding raises questions about the A350’s carbon composite fuselage, which is designed to make the twin-aisle aircraft lighter and cheaper to operate by burning less jet fuel.

Qatar Airways has a fleet of 53 Airbus A350s in both its 1000 and 900 series. The airline has another on order with the Toulouse, France-based aeroplane manufacturer, making its total order of 76 aircraft — the most of any airline worldwide.

In its statement, Qatar Airways said it had been monitoring the degradation beneath the paint on the fuselage of the aircraft for some time. It described the issue as a “significant condition”, without elaborating.

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Matthew Driskill is the Editor of Asian Aviation and is based in Cambodia. He has been an Asia-based journalist and content producer since 1990 for outlets including Reuters and the International Herald Tribune/New York Times and is a former president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong. He frequently appears on international broadcast outlets like CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC and has taught journalism at Hong Kong University and the American University of Paris. Driskill has received awards from the Associated Press for Investigative Reporting and Business Writing and in 1989 was named the John J. McCloy Fellow by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York where he earned his Master's Degree.

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