Air France (AF / AFR), France’s largest airline and flag carrier, has plans to announce that it will place a large new aircraft order by the end of July. The Air France – KLM Group is the last major airline group in Europe to not have ordered a new generation narrow-body fleet, such as the Airbus A320neo or the Boeing 737 MAX.
According to La Tribune, the new order will be announced during the group’s half-year results presentation, taking place on July 31. Air France is reportedly considering both the Airbus A220 and A320neo to replace its current aging fleet of A320 family aircraft. As it is one of the only airlines in the world to operate all four variants of the A320 family, the airline is considering the A220 and A320neo for size and range flexibility.
An aviation industry expert stated that he expects that the new order will contain 50% A220-300 aircraft and 50% A320neo aircraft. He beleives that the A220 will be used to replace the airline’s current A319 and A318 aircraft, while the A320neo will be used to replace the airline’s A320 and A321 aircraft.
Air France has also stated that it is looking to retire the remainder of its Airbus A380 superjumbo fleet.
According to several sources, Ben Smith, CEO of Air France – KLM does not want the A380 to remain in the fleet due to its size, which requires a large passenger load for a profit, and its unreliability, which has cost the airline much more than smaller, more efficient aircraft in maintenance.
The airline is considering several aircraft to replace the A380, including the Boeing 787 and Airbus A330neo. The larger Airbus A350-1000 is not under consideration due to its high purchase price.
The group’s subsidiary low-cost airline, Transavia France, is also up for fleet renewal. The airline currently operates 36 Boeing 737-800 aircraft, which will likely be replaced by the modernized Boeing 737 MAX 8, similar to Transavia Netherlands, which has already ordered the MAX and will take delivery of its first aircraft after the 737 MAX grounding is completed.
In addition to Air France’s fleet renewal, Dutch flag carrier KLM will also replace its current short-haul and medium-haul fleet. The airline currently operates 51 Boeing 737 Next-Generation aircraft, with the 737-700, 737-800 and 737-900 in its fleet. However, this fleet is aging, as the oldest aircraft is over 20 years of age, and the average fleet age for the airline’s 737s is over 12. While it took delivery of several new 737-800 aircraft in recent months, the airline is still looking for a long-term solution for its narrow-body fleet renewal.
The airline’s most likely choice for fleet renewal is the Boeing 737 MAX family, which provides fleet commonality with the current Boeing 737 aircraft. However, it is unclear as to when the airline will place this order, or if it will at all, due to the current Boeing 737 MAX grounding.