The Air France-KLM Group is eyeing a new wide-body aircraft order, as it looks to replace some of its aging fleet.
According to reports by The Air Current, the joint French-Dutch group is finalizing an order for 50 twin-aisle aircraft from Airbus and/or Boeing, with the goal of replacing its aging Airbus A330 and Boeing 777-200ER fleet. Citing two people familiar with the matter, the publication added that the decision could come as soon as the end of September 2023.
Air France-KLM‘s H1 2023 report, published in July 2023, highlighted that the group has 540 aircraft, 521 of which were in active service as of June 30, 2023. “The average age of the aircraft in the operational fleet was 12,2 years, of which 12,5 years for the long-haul fleet, 12,9 years for the medium-haul fleet, 20,3 years for the cargo fleet and 9,2 years for the regional fleet,” the report continued.
At that time, Air France-KLM had a total of 59 Boeing 777-300s (43 at Air France, 16 at KLM), 33 777-200s (18 AF, 15 KLM), and 26 Airbus A330-200s and A330-300s, split between five A330-300s at KLM, and 15 and six A330-200s at Air France and KLM, respectively.
“The modernization of the fleet will be expressed by the continued growth of the A350-900 fleet within Air France and that of the B787-10s at KLM,” the H1 2023 report noted.
Currently, Air France has 21 Airbus A350-900 aircraft, having taken delivery of its 21st A350 on July 12, 2023, according to ch-aviation.com data. Meanwhile, KLM has 23 Boeing 787-9 and 787-10s, ch-aviation.com data showed.
Unlike many of its counterparts, Air France abandoned the Airbus A380 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that airlines such as Lufthansa, British Airways, and Qantas have begun reactivating their double-deckers, the group’s shareholders have begun to question the decision to retire the type.
During Air France-KLM’s Annual General Shareholders’ Meeting (AG), the group declared that its decision to retire the Airbus A380s was made before the pandemic.
“The economic equation for these four-engine aircraft delivered between 2009 and 2014 effectively no longer added up, given notably the need to upgrade the cabins,” Air France-KLM noted.
The airline group said that Lufthansa’s fleet strategy has been to rely on deliveries of the 777X and 787-9, two programs that have experienced “multiple delays, for example the delivery of the first B777Xs having been pushed back from 2023 to 2025”.
As a result, the German carrier has needed to acquire second-hand Airbus A350 and Boeing 787s, as well as bringing back the Airbus A380.
“The extended operation of the A380 by some of our competitors thus needs to be seen within the framework of a shortage of next-generation long-haul aircraft and does not call into question Air France’s long-term strategy focused on fleet modernization,” the group concluded, adding that Air France-KLM continued to take aircraft deliveries even during the pandemic.
Notably, during H1 2023, Air France-KLM “has decided to extend the amortization period for its Boeing B777-300 fleet from 20 to 25 years, generating a reduction in amortization expense of €41 million [$43.7 million] over the period ended June 30, 2023”.