Qatar Airways seeks more than $600 million in Airbus A350 dispute

FILE PHOTO: A Qatar Airways passenger plane comes in to land at London Heathrow airport, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain, May 21, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

By Tim Hepher and Guy Faulconbridge

PARIS/LONDON (Reuters) – Qatar Airways is claiming $618 million in compensation from planemaker Airbus in a dispute over erosion to the surface of A350 jetliners, a court document showed on Thursday.

The Gulf airline is also seeking extra compensation of $4 million for every day that 21 of its A350 airplanes remain grounded by Qatar’s regulator over the skin damage, which includes erosion and gaps in a layer of lightning protection.

The European jetliner’s largest customer launched the claim in December, saying Airbus had failed to provide a full root-cause analysis needed to satisfy its questions over the airworthiness of some 40% of its A350 fleet.

Airbus said it understood the cause and would “deny in total” the airline’s claim in a division of the High Court in London. “Airbus restates there is no airworthiness issue,” a spokesperson said, adding this view had been confirmed by European regulators.

Qatar Airways had no immediate comment.

The companies have been locked in a row for months over damage including blistered paint, rivet-related cracks and corrosion to the sub-layer of lightning protection.

The row escalated in November when a Reuters investigation revealed at least five other airlines had discovered surface flaws, prompting Airbus to set up an internal task force and to explore a new anti-lightning design for future A350 planes.

Qatar is so far the only country to ground some of the jets.

(Reporting by Tim Hepher and Guy Faulconbridge; editing by David Goodman and Jason Neely)