Airbus canceled Qatar Airways's order for 50 A321 jets worth more than $6 billion as the 2 companies' dispute intensifies

Airbus canceled Qatar Airways's order for 50 A321 jets worth more than $6 billion as the 2 companies' dispute intensifies
A Qatar Airways Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.InsectWorld /
  • Airbus canceled Qatar Airways's order of 50 A321 jets amid an ongoing dispute regarding paint issues on the carrier's A350s.
  • Qatar posed a video of the paint in response, saying the decision is "a matter of considerable regret and frustration"

Tensions between Airbus and long-time customer Qatar Airways continue to grow after the manufacturer canceled a multi-billion dollar plane order from the airline.

Airbus confirmed to Insider on Friday that it has canceled Qatar's order for 50 A321 jets amid an ongoing dispute over paint issues on the carrier's A350 planes. In 2017, the two entities entered the $6.35 billion contract, and the first aircraft was scheduled to be delivered to Qatar in 2023, according to Reuters.

An Airbus spokesperson said the decision was "in accordance with our rights."

Airbus' rare move comes after Qatar sued the planemaker in a London High Court in December. The carrier was requesting $618 million in damages from Airbus because it was forced to ground over 20 of its A350 planes due to surface paint issues, according to Aviation International News. Qatar said the grounding was a result of "explicit written instructions" received from the country's aviation safety regulator.

Airbus told Insider in early January that it acknowledged "receipt" of Qatar's claim, which they "deny in total."


Qatar said in a statement to Insider that it filed the lawsuit to expedite the "hearing of a preliminary issue to address our serious and legitimate safety concerns regarding the surface degradation condition adversely impacting our Airbus A350 fleet."

The airline posted a video of the paint on its YouTube channel on Friday in response to the order cancelation and called Airbus' decision "a matter of considerable regret and frustration."

"The defects are not superficial and one of the defects causes the aircraft's lightning protection system to be exposed and damaged, another defect leaves the underlying composite structure exposed to moisture and ultraviolet light, and other defects include cracking in the composite and damage around a high percentage of rivets on the aircraft fuselage," a Qatar spokesperson told Insider.

The dispute between Airbus and Qatar has been going on for months. In June, the airline halted the acceptance of A350s until the planemaker determined the root cause of the issue.

Despite the airline's claims, Airbus says the paint issue is simply "cosmetic." Airbus said in a statement in December that "the attempt by this customer to misrepresent this specific topic as an airworthiness issue represents a threat to the international protocols on safety matters."


According to Bloomberg, the planemaker claims Qatar has "sought to engineer or has acquiesced" the groundings because it was economically advantageous "given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic."

Moreover, in early January, Airbus told Insider that it has identified a root cause and "provided necessary guidance to its customers and operators for continuous operations."

Reuters research revealed at least six other airlines, including Finnair, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Lufthansa, Delta Air Lines, and Air France, have reported paint surface issues. However, most of the carriers said the paint is not a safety concern, nor have they grounded their jets. Moreover, safety regulators in Europe — where Airbus' headquarters lies — has also said the surface paint flaws do not pose a risk to airworthiness, reported Bloomberg.

In December, Qatar CEO Akbar Al Baker told the South China Morning Post that Airbus has "destroyed" its relationship with the airline, which was the launch customer for the planemaker's A350-1000 jet. According to AIN, the carrier has temporarily re-launched five of its A380 superjumbos to cover capacity issues while the A350s are grounded.