Qatar Airways has grounded a significant portion of its Airbus A350 fleet, over concerns surrounding the accelerated rate of fuselage surface degradation.

The carrier said that following “explicit written instruction of its regulator”, 13 of its A350s have now been grounded, “effectively removing them from service until such time as the root cause can be established and a satisfactory solution made available to permanently correct the underlying condition”.

It is understood Qatar Airways and Airbus have been aware of the potential issue underneath the aircrafts’ paintwork for some time, but it has taken until now for the Qatari regulators to instruct the carrier to ground the affected aircraft.

Qatar Airways has over 50 A350s in its fleet, mixed between the A350-900 and the A350-1000, and the carrier did not confirm the number which had been grounded between these two variants.

The carrier also has a further 20-odd A350-1000s on order, but says it has suspended deliveries until the issue is sorted.

It said that it would do “all it can to also ensure that its passengers are not inconvenienced by the mandated removal of these aircraft from service and will endeavour to find alternative solutions to offer the usual high standard of service to all passengers”.

The airline’s fleet of A330s have been returned to service, and it said it was “presently looking at other solutions too”. Qatar Airways has a fleet of ten A380 superjumbos in storage, although it has previously stated that “it is not commercially or environmentally justifiable to operate such a large aircraft in the current market”.

Commenting on the news Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker, said:

“With this latest development, we sincerely expect that Airbus treats this matter with the proper attention that it requires. Qatar Airways will not accept anything other than aircraft that continue to offer its customers the highest possible standard of safety and the best travel experience that they deserve.

“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.”