LONDON, UK — In a recent ruling, a judge at the British High Court has mandated Qatar Airways to reveal any communication between the airline and the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) regarding the suspension of operations of its A350-900 and A350-1000 aircraft due to safety concerns related to surface painting degradation.

At a hearing in London this month, Judge David Waksman instructed Qatar Airways to produce the correspondence between the airline and the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) that led to the grounding of 22 Airbus widebody aircraft in February 2022. This directive follows multiple previous requests from the court for the information. In its lawsuit, Qatar Airways is seeking more than $2 billion in compensation from Airbus relating to the grounding. The Qatari carrier filed its claim in early 2022.

However, before the hearing, Judge David Waksman expressed concern over the lack of participation and statement from Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker in the court case. Last week, Waksman stated that the CEO was not a minor figure in the case.

"Mr. Al Baker appears not to wish to engage at all in this case, whether as a matter of substance or on matters of disclosure, where he may be able to assist," Waksman said.

"If those (evidence) gaps remain and cannot be explained, especially as Mr. Al Baker apparently is not giving evidence, then they (Airbus) will make an application that I should draw an adverse inference, either in relation to his absence or in relation to documentary absence, and there is very well-developed case law as far as that goes," he added.

Previously, Airbus has hinted at the possibility of a confrontation between Qatar Airways and the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) and has considered the grounding of aircraft ordered by the QCAA to be a manipulative tactic rather than a genuine safety concern. 

On the other hand, Airbus has acknowledged making alterations to the design of the A350's fuselage surface. The company has informed the court that it has begun using a new lighter type of perforated copper foil (PCF), a protective layer placed between the fuselage and outer paint, as a solution to paint cracking concerns.

Also Read: Airbus Introduces New Design for A350 Jets Amidst Ongoing Dsipute with Qatar Airways

"(New) PCF is being used on rear-section parts on aircraft delivered from the end of 2022," said an Airbus spokesman last week.

Despite Airbus' consistent stance that the paint cracking problem did not pose a safety risk (as other airlines continued to operate the aircraft type), Qatar Airways has held a different opinion, claiming that the flaking paint reveals corrosion or gaps in the copper foil, responsible for shielding against lightning strikes.

As of today, seven A350-1000s operated by Qatar Airways are grounded, and 12 are in service, while 23 A350-900s are grounded, and 11 are in service as well. Throughout much of 2022, Airbus gradually canceled orders for A350s intended for Qatar Airways until the final 19 A350-1000s still on order were canceled in September.