Europe 1 with AFP // Photo credits: Artur Widak / NurPhoto / NurPhoto via AFP 23:10 p.m., September 25, 2023, modified at 23:12 p.m., September 25, 2023

Airbus said it was "extremely grateful to the Air France-KLM group for the trust it continues to place in Airbus", judging that it was "an important step in their long-standing partnership". Deliveries will take place between 2026 and 2030.

Air France-KLM continues the modernization of its fleet: the Franco-Dutch group announced Monday that it would place a "major order" for 50 long-haul Airbus A350 aircraft to "continue the renewal and rationalization of its fleet". This order, with vesting rights for an additional 40 aircraft, represents more than $16 billion at list price, never applied due to rebates. Deliveries will take place between 2026 and 2030.

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Replace 33 Boeing 777-200 and 26 A330s

It aims to replace the 33 Boeing 777-200 and 26 A330 older generation of both airlines. It will cover both A350-900s and A350-1000s, whose distribution is not fixed. "This will be a scalable order, giving the group the flexibility to allocate aircraft to its various airlines based on market dynamics and the local regulatory framework," Air France-KLM said in a statement. These aircraft, capable of carrying up to 410 passengers over 16,000 kilometers, allow a 25% reduction in fuel consumption compared to previous generation aircraft and a 40% reduction in their noise footprint.

The A350 "will play a key role in achieving our ambitious decarbonization targets, including achieving -30% CO2 emissions per passenger/km by 2030," compared to 2019, according to Group Chief Executive Benjamin Smith, quoted in the statement.

Air France-KLM believes that the ban on Russian airspace since the beginning of the war in Ukraine will last. This played a role in the selection of the A350 at the expense of the Boeing 787, of which the group operates 25 copies, Benjamin Smith said during a conference call. "The Boeing 787-8 and 787-9 have an excellent range, but are smaller, the A350-900 is the same size as the 787-10, but has the same range as the 787-9," he said, saying he "needs the largest aircraft" available.

As for the Boeing 777X, which still has to be certified, "there is no slot available for at least 5 or 6 years" but the aircraft will be "candidate" for the replacement of the Boeing 777-300 at the end of the decade, he said. Air France already operates 22 A350-900s and still needs to receive 19, while KLM has 33 Boeing 787s as latest-generation aircraft. The Franco-Dutch group also has 8 A350s on order in its future freighter version. With 99 aircraft to term, Air France-KLM will be the world's largest A350 operator, said Ben Smith.

Valuable delivery slots

In a statement, Airbus said it was "extremely grateful to the Air France-KLM group for the confidence it continues to place in Airbus", judging that it was "an important step in (their) long-standing partnership". The two groups announced in early September their intention to create a joint venture for the maintenance of A350 parts.

Faced with the need to reduce their environmental footprint to achieve the carbon neutrality by 2050 promised by the sector, and global air traffic expected to double by that time, airlines are engaged in a vast movement to modernize their fleet. To ensure their future growth, they are striving to reserve as soon as possible the delivery slots available from aircraft manufacturers, engaged in a ramp-up of their production after the plunge due to the health crisis.

The group owed its salvation to the intervention of the French and Dutch states during the health crisis. Nevertheless, it had continued to invest to preserve its future competitiveness by rationalizing its fleets. Air France-KLM ordered 2019 medium-haul A60-220s and 300 single-aisle A100neo family aircraft in 320 to renew and expand the fleets of its KLM and Transavia airlines. On track to return to its pre-crisis capacity next year, Air France-KLM posted record profitability in the second quarter, making a net profit of €604 million between April and June, when it earned €728 million for the full year 2022.