Measured in Celsius, temperatures between Qatar Airways and Airbus are currently hovering around freezing point. The reason for the worsening climate is a lawsuit filed in the UK by Qatar Airways for damages due to paint cracks appearing on its A350 passenger aircraft. Airbus refuted the allegations and, in turn, cancelled the Qatari carrier's order for 50 A321 neo. Now Qatar Airways has followed up by placing an order for 102 freighter and passenger aircraft with Airbus rival, Boeing. Total value according to list price: $34 billion.
Qatar Airways CEO, Akbar Al Baker knows how to make a public appearance. He and Boeing chose no less a venue than the White House in Washington to seal a big aircraft deal. The ceremony was
upgraded by the presence of the Emir of Qatar, who happened to be in Washington at the time.
According to the contract, Qatar Airways orders 52 Boeing freighters, 34 of which are firm orders for the future B777-8F, plus options for 16 additional units, and 2 B777Fs of the current Triple Seven variant. The order is supplemented by 25 medium-haul B737 MAX jets and options for a further 25 aircraft of this passenger jetliner series.
Nay to A350F
Sad news for Airbus, indeed, because the frame maker’s A350F is obviously no longer included in Qatar Airways’ shopping list. Nevertheless, even without Qatar Airways Cargo standing in its order book, the European manufacturer can expect high interest for its A350F, since all market forecasts predict an ongoing gap between demand and capacity supply, keeping freight rates at high levels.
As for the dispute between Qatar Airways and Airbus, a quick resolution is not very likely. The Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) grounded 21 A350 passenger aircraft after an increasing number reported paint damages. The flight ban will remain in place until the causes of the paint problems have been clarified and safety risks are ruled out, Qatar Airways announces.
The carrier claims that the grounding caused financial damage amounting to over US$700 million. Qatar Airways has meticulously documented the deformation of the paint coating and submitted it to the London court as proof of claim.
However, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) sees things differently. Small or even tiny cracks in the paint layer on the outer skin of the aircraft do not pose a safety risk, they say. Airbus admits having problems with the coating, especially since other A350 operators have also reported some damages, albeit to a much lesser extent than Qatar Airways. The frame maker argues that great temperature fluctuations cause the paint layers and the fuselage’s carbon fiber to expand at different rates, leading to small cracks occurring. Because of the extremely high temperatures in Qatar and temperatures of -50°C or even less at high altitudes during long-haul flights, the carbon-fiber fuselage and paint layer are exposed to great stress factors, the manufacturer argues.
New Airbus structure
Aside of this conflict, Airbus has cleared up another - long-simmering - problem: the restructuring of the Group. After a heated dispute with the unions, the manufacturer has agreed to establish a new subsidiary headquartered in Hamburg. Its working title is Airbus Operations GmbH. It is responsible for the final assembly of single aisle aircraft (A320 family).
By contrast, the production of individual parts and components is to be spun off into a private company called Mubea, which is to become a long-term supplier to Airbus. 4,500 of the current 14,000 Airbus employees in Germany will be transferred to the firm, sweetened with a job guarantee until 2030.
In France, the Group's transformation was already completed on 01JAN22 with the inception of Airbus Atlantic. The newcomer bundles the activities of Stelia Aerospace, which were spread across various locations.
Ramping up production rate
Airbus also confirmed that it will ramp up A319/20/21 production from the current 45 units per month, to 65 in mid-2023. Simultaneously, the manufacturer is preparing to build a hydrogen-powered aircraft family. According to plans, the first H-driven Airbus will take off in 2035.
Common (ecological) interests
Presumably, Airbus and Qatar Airways will have settled their discord by then. After all, environmental projects are high on the list for both companies. Qatar Airways Cargo, for example, recently announced the introduction of an emissions calculator: https://www.qrcargo.com/calculate-emissions
The tool quickly determines the total CO2 output of a shipment in kilos or pounds, as preferred by customers. Users simply enter the consignment’s origin and destination, flight date, and weight, to determine the various flight options and their respective CO2 emissions.
“This calculation tool allows our customers to get a better overview of the carbon footprint of their shipments with us. It is the first step in our plan to offer a full offset option as part of the CO2NNECT program we have signed with IATA,” Guillaume Halleux, Chief Officer Cargo at Qatar Airways Cargo, commented.
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