Qatar Airways considers leases to fill A350 void

Qatar Airways (QR, Doha Hamad Int’l) plans to lease additional capacity in 2022 given the ongoing downtime of twenty A350s due to issues with paint chipping on the fuselage.

Qatar Airways Group Managing Director Akbar Al Baker told Business Traveler during a speech at the Aviation Club in London that the airline had already had to reactivate some of its A380-800s and other planes destined for be returned to rental companies in order to deal with the crisis.

“Airbus has made a very big dent in our jumbo jet operations. The problem is, it is a serious problem. We do not know if this is not an airworthiness issue. We also don’t know if it’s an airworthiness problem … We have a problem, and Qatar Airways cannot sit with its arms crossed and legs crossed when we have a problem. We have to solve it, and that is exactly why we are in the market to lease planes, ”he said.

The advanced ch-aviation fleets module shows that Qatar Airways operates thirty-four A350-900s and nineteen A350-1000s. It has an additional twenty-three -1000 owed by Airbus, although deliveries have been suspended until the manufacturer resolves the paint issue. In total, the airline operates 171 wide-bodied passenger aircraft – the twenty A350s on the ground represent almost 12% of its total fleet and a similar share in terms of total seating capacity.

It is not clear whether the airline would consider dry or wet charter capability if the A350s stay on the ground longer. Qatar Airways did not respond to ch-aviation’s request for comment. The airline does not lease any passenger planes with crew, although Air Belgium (KF, Brussels Charleroi) operates an A330-200F on its behalf.

Al Baker added that given the A350’s issues, the airline was much more likely to select Boeing and its B777X freighter for its planned large cargo order.

Airbus recently admitted that the A350s suffered “early surface wear” and that the problems were reported not only by Qatar Airways, but also by other carriers, whose planes are not exposed to such high temperatures when they are on the ground. The issues were initially reported to be purely cosmetic, but reports of damage to the lightning-proof copper wiring on the fuselage indicated the issue could be more serious. Airbus maintains the aircraft type is safe despite the issues. No other airline, except Qatar Airways, has grounded its A350s.

Al Baker suggested that a fix for the A350’s paint issues might require type recertification, which would take time and could bring the plane to a standstill for months. Airbus declined to comment.

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