MIAMI – Qatar Airways (QR) today is restarting A380 service to Paris and London today. That’s because 21 of its Airbus A350s are still grounded.

As reported, a number of the airline’s 350s suffer from deterioration of the surface below the paint on certain parts of the aircraft. The airline and the manufacturer are deadlocked in a dispute on the cause and the problem’s effect on the airworthiness of the craft. Airbus says that the planes are OK to fly.

Regulators in Doha have insisted that the airline ground the planes until the problem is fixed. The same problem has been seen at other airlines including Finnair (AY) and Cathay Pacific (CX).

To fill in the fleet gap left by these grounded planes, QR has returned the larger A380 superjumbo to service on certain routes starting today. QR still has 31 A350s deemed airworthy by local regulators.

Qatar is one of Airbus’ largest customers, but the airline’s chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, now says that the disagreement has “destroyed” its relationship with the manufacturer. For instance, QR is in midst of a multi-billion dollar deal to replace 35 freighters. It appears that a deal with rival Boeing is imminent.

“The damage is very severe. I don’t know how we will be able to work with [Airbus] again,” Al Baker said.

Qatar Airways A7-ANB Airbus A350-1041. Photo: Roberto Leiro/Airways

Moving Forward

Last week, Airbus announced it was seeking independent legal assessment as a way to move forward in resolving the A350 dispute.

However, QR does have on order 50 A321neos and 23 A350-1000s. QR says it remains committed to its existing orders as long as the planes are “technically robust with no problems.”

The South China Morning Post reports that QR is looking at leasing planes to give itself a cushion should regulators decide to ground more planes. Four Boeing 777s will likely come from Cathay Pacific (CX). Qatar is the third-largest shareholder of that airline, owning a 9.99% stake.

Featured image: Qatar Airways A7-APA Airbus A380. Photo: Tony Bordelais/Airways