MIAMI – Qatar Airways (QR) has halted the delivery of A350 aircraft from Airbus due to an issue with the surface below the paint on the plane.

The airline said Tuesday via a Reuters report that the surface below the paint on some of the carbon-fiber aircraft is deteriorating faster than expected. Thus, QR will not accept any aircraft from Airbus until the manufacturer identifies and solves the underlying problem.

“Qatar Airways continues to experience and has witnessed a condition in which the surface below the paint on some of its Airbus A350 aircraft has been degrading at an accelerated rate,” an airline spokesperson said in response to a Reuters query. The airline has grounded some of its A350s until Airbus corrects the problem. It has not said how many planes are affected.

Reuters says that QR is increasing inspections of the aircraft to effectively monitor the condition across its fleet. Qatar is the largest operator of the A350 and was the launch customer of the -900 and -1000 variants. It has 23 -1000s on order.

Airbus has not commented on the issue, saying that discussions with its customers are confidential.

Qatar Airways A350 Oneworld. Photo: Clement Alloing/Airways

Continuing Problem

But notes that paint problems with the A350 have been popping up on occasion. Lufthansa (LH) returned its four-year-old A350s to Toulouse, supposedly to rebrand with the new livery. And in January, a QR A350 flew back to Toulouse due to a paint/finish problem.

Qatar Airways is known throughout the industry for its scrupulous attention to detail and high expectations for the fit and finish of its aircraft. A350s have a list price of US$366m. shares a report of a four-year-old QR A350 sent to Toulouse in January to be repainted in World Cup 2020 livery. Tracking data show that the plane has not moved since. The website says that two industry sources indicated that stripping the paint away exposed problems with the underlying surface. Airbus did not know at that time whether it was a one off problem or a fleet-wide issue.

Per Skift, it takes 20 workers eight days to paint an A350.

Featured image: Qatar Airways A7-ANB AIrbus A350-1041. Photo: Roberto Leiro/Airways