Qatar Airways has described Airbus’s decision to cancel an order for 50 A321neos as a “matter of considerable regret and frustration”, after the carrier secured acceleration of a court hearing on the A350 paint dispute.

The airline says 21 A350s in its fleet will remain grounded, and it will not take delivery of any further A350s while the dispute persists.

Qatar Airways has accused Airbus of deciding to “expand and escalate” the row, by seeking to cancel the “entirely separate” agreement for A321neos.

“We confirm that we are adhering to all of our obligations under all applicable contracts,” insists the airline.

Qatar Airways, which is taking legal action against Airbus at London’s High Court, sought an expedited hearing to address its safety concerns over degradation of the fuselage skin on the A350s.

”We welcome the decision of the court to expedite this issue and order a hearing in April in an effort to bring about a more rapid resolution to the dispute,” the airline states.

It has backed up its complaint with video evidence which appears to show skin paint damage on at least four A350-900s, registered A7-ALE, A7-ALF, A7-ALG and A7-ALT.

While three of these twinjets bore early serial numbers, MSN8, MSN11 and MSN13, and were delivered in 2015, the fourth is MSN90, a younger aircraft delivered in 2017.

Qatar A350 skin damage 1-c-Qatar Airways

Source: Qatar Airways

Qatar A350 skin damage 2-c-Qatar Airways

Source: Qatar Airways

“These defects are not superficial and one of the defects causes the aircraft’s lightning-protection system to be exposed and damaged,” the carrier says.

“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.”

Airbus has previously countered that Qatar Airways has rejected reasonable solutions to the problem.

Qatar Airways says it is continuing to urge Airbus to undertake a “satisfactory root-cause analysis” into the cause of the degradation, to establish whether any proposed repair will rectify the issue.

“[We remain] prepared to help with the root-cause analysis,” it adds. “In the meantime, we will continue to robustly defend our position in the legal proceedings.”

Qatar A350 skin damage 3-c-Qatar Airways

Source: Qatar Airways

Qatar A350 skin damage 5-c-Qatar Airways

Source: Qatar Airways