Qatar Airways boss Akbar Al Baker has said that problems with its A350 fleet will lead to passengers flying on leased aircraft in coming months.

At least 20 of Qatar Airways modern A350 fleet are currently grounded as a result of degradation of the paint and under layers on the aircraft.

Qatar Airways grounds 13 A350 aircraft over fuselage concerns

Pictures of this are available at this Reuters piece

[Reuters] Costly Airbus paint flaw goes wider than the Gulf

The flaking paint on the A350 aircraft has, in some cases, revealed the A350’s expanded copper foil anti-lightning system (see the pictures in the Reuters piece accessed from the link, above). As such, Al Baker said it had no choice but to ground the aircraft

“It is a serious matter. We don’t know if it is an airworthiness issue. We don’t know that it is not an airworthiness issue. The real cause of it has not been established by Airbus.”

Qatar has seen demand a significant return in demand in recent months, and is looking forward to events such as the FIFA world cup in 2022, and needs a full fleet to service the demand it is currently seeing and anticipating next year.

As a result, and as already reported here, it has brought back into service 6 A380 aircraft which it had intended to retire.

Qatar Airways to reactivate A380s

Qatar Airways: reintroduction of A380s “a short-term measure”

Now it seems that Qatar will be forced to go to the aircraft leasing market to lease aircraft to cover the demand it is anticipating.

For travellers, the main concern is one of what seating and service they will encounter on these leased aircraft. One of the main attractions of Qatar Airways is its onboard seating and the service including food and beverage. The leased aircraft will not have Qatar’s seating on board, and with a galley that is configured differently from its own aircraft, will also cause problems for service provision.

In response to a question from Business Traveller at The Aviation Club lunch yesterday, Al Baker said,

“We have a problem and Qatar Airways cannot sit with its arms folded and legs crossed when we have a problem. We need to solve it and this is exactly why we are out in the market to lease airplanes, but also to reactivate our A380s and bring back aircraft that we had already returned to the lessors.”

“Airbus has made a very large dent in our wide body operations. The issue is that it’s a serious matter. We don’t know if it is not an airworthiness issue. We also don’t know if it is an airworthiness issue. This is also a conclusion that was accepted by IATA inspectors who came to meet our regulator. At the moment we have 20 Airbus A350s, both the dash900 and dash1000 that has been grounded by our regulator for a situation that is unprecedented in our short history of 25 years where there is accelerated degradation of the skin of the aircraft.”

“In the beginning they said it was a cosmetic issue and it was only affecting Qatar Airways because of the thermal cycle, now they have at least now accepted that there are several other airlines which have the same condition and only yesterday in a release to Bloomberg they have acknowledged that they are working to find a solution. Which means they still don’t have a solution. And they don’t have a solution because they still don’t know why it has happened.”

“It is always better when there is a problem to admit [it]. Not to put your customer in a corner and blame them for something which is actually your own problem. Unfortunately by making these false statements Airbus is climbing up a very tall tree  and doesn’t know how to get back down again.”