Air France-KLM has finalized a firm order for 25 Airbus A350-900s and has taken options on 25 more, 10 fewer A350-900s in all than the group said it would buy when it first announced its planned order in September 2011.
The Airbus A350-900 will become an essential element in the Air France-KLM group’s future fleet strategy, according to Airbus.
Both Air France and KLM will operate the Airbus A350-900, though because Paris-based Air France has a larger operation than Amsterdam-based KLM it is likely Air France will operate the majority of the aircraft.
Air France-KLM signed the order on June 19 during the Paris Air Show 2013, after a long period of negotiations following the group’s first announcement in September 2011 of its planned Airbus A350 XWB buy.
It is understood the reason why the deal took so long to consummate is that Air France-KLM, not normally a customer for Rolls-Royce engines, was unhappy that Rolls-Royce (whose Trent XWB engines will power every A350 sold to date) insisted the company buy its Total Care engine-maintenance and support package along with the engines.
This package would see Rolls-Royce or an affiliated maintenance shop performing all the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) work on Air France-KLM’s Trent XWB engines.
Air France-KLM has its own highly skilled maintenance and engineering group, Air France Industries KLM Engineering & Maintenance (AFI KLM E&M), which would normally handle this MRO work in-house.
For Air France-KLM to finalize its order for A350-900s, it appears strongly likely that AFI KLM E&M has cut a deal with Rolls-Royce to be able to handle the MRO for the A350’s Trent XWB engines. This might be by means of a formal affiliation with Rolls-Royce, like the one which rival company Lufthansa Technik has with the UK manufacturer.
(Lufthansa Group is expected to announce large orders for one or more widebody types, expected to include a sizable number of Airbus A350 XWB jets, within the next four months.)
“This order of new-generation, high performance aircraft reflects the importance of our investments for the benefit of our customers, whose comfort is at the heart of our concerns,” says Alexandre de Juniac, who will become chairman and CEO of Air France-KLM as of July 1.
“With the A350, Air France-KLM will continue to operate one of the most modern fleets in the world, and ensure the growth of its long-haul activity, while achieving significant cost savings,” adds de Juniac.
“Our order for this new aircraft type opens a new chapter for the group. This aircraft introduces major environmental advances and will contribute to our ambitious targets for noise and carbon reduction,” says Peter Hartman, president and chief executive officer of KLM.
The Air France-KLM Group currently operates a fleet of just over 190 Airbus aircraft: eight A380s, 31 A330s, 13 A340s, 25 A321s, 54 A320s, 41 A319s and 18 A318s.
With this new order Air France-KLM becomes perhaps the only customer for every member of the Airbus product family. Few airlines still operate the Airbus A318, for which Airbus has not yet decided to develop a re-engined A318neo version.