UK’s Investment Minister Offers To Mediate Between Airbus And Qatar Airways

As the word of words between Qatar Airways and Airbus threatens to spill into court, the UK Investment Minister has offered to step in. Gerry Grimstone highlighted the importance of both sides in the British economy and offered to mediate the dispute, which could go to English courts. So what exactly is going on?

Qatar Airways A350 LAX
Qatar Airways has grounded around 20 of its A350s following issues with early paint degradation. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying


As the tensions between Airbus and Qatar Airways threaten to go legal, the UK is offering a helping hand. In a statement to Reuters, Investment Minister Gerry Grimstone has said he would call a meeting between the two sides to prevent legal actions and further deterioration.

Explaining his rationale, the government UK said the move highlighted “the importance of Airbus and Qatari investment to the UK.” Indeed, both Airbus and Qatar contribute significantly to the British economy through its, factories, aircraft, and investments, respectively.

Airbus, A350, Qatar Airways
The UK’s offer may have come too late to prevent a public legal battle between QR and Airbus. Photo: Getty Images

However, this came before Airbus’s latest action, which might leave mediation out of the question. On Thursday, Airbus announced that it has asked for an independent legal assessment through a procedure in UK courts. Now, with a suit in progress, both sides are more likely to dig their heels in for a fight. However, we could see the UK mediating the conflict in the future too.

What is going on?

Qatar Airways has long been a big fan of the Airbus A350 and is the biggest customer by orders and second-largest operator. So what went wrong? The issues began in January 2021, when QR sent one of its A350s to Toulouse, France, for cracks and other issues on the surface of the aircraft. These were discovered after the plane was stripped of its paint.

By June, this seemingly innocuous issue had turned contentious, with Qatar Airways refusing to take more A350 deliveries. Meanwhile, Airbus maintained its original stand that the problems were merely cosmetic and only visible once the paint was removed. With no impact on safety, the planemaker did not seem to take any action on the issue.

EASA, Airbus A350, Airworthiness
The number of grounded A350s has risen from 13 to 20 in the last four months. Photo: Airbus

However, in August, Qatar Airways grounded 13 of its A350s due to the surface degradation and cracks on the order of its regulator. Despite this, European regulator EASA did not take any action, affirming Airbus’ view that the issues don’t pose a safety risk.

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However, it was later found that Qatar isn’t the only carrier facing these issues. Finnair, Etihad, Air France, Cathay Pacific, and more have also reported seeing similar A350 issues. However, no other carrier has grounded its aircraft. While this does not mean safety is affected, it does show that the A350 is facing widespread cosmetic issues.

Airbus is unhappy that QR is publicly making “inaccurate statements” and affecting its reputation. Meanwhile, Qatar Airways is unwilling to unground the planes without changes to the surface. For now, the two sides seem to want opposite things, but given the billions in business that hang in the balance, a settlement is likely.

What do you think about Airbus and Qatar Airways’ position? Let us know in the comments!

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