Air France-KLM announced in a press release that it plans to order 50 Airbus A350-900 and A350-1000 aircraft in order to renew and rationalize its long-haul fleet.
This acquisition – the amount of which has not been noted – was validated yesterday by the board of directors of the Franco-Dutch airline group. In addition to 50 long-haul aircraft on firm order, the group will take 40 others as options. The first deliveries are expected in 2026 and will last until 2030, said the Air France-KLM press release. This will be a scalable order, offering the airline group the flexibility to allocate aircraft to its different companies based on market dynamics and the local regulatory framework.
These new A350s will be added to the 41 A350-900s already ordered (45 including the A350-F freighter versions), of which 21 are already in service with Air France. They will gradually replace the older generation Airbus A330 and Boeing 777. Taking into account all orders placed to date, Air France-KLM is set to become the world’s leading operator of the Airbus A350 family, with up to 99 aircraft.
To date, the Air France-KLM group’s A350s are configured in two versions: the first put into service with the first aircraft received from 2019, has 324 seats; the second, deployed since last July, has 292 seats.
According to Ben Smith, CEO of Air France-KLM, the A350 was chosen for its better range compared to its competitor Boeing 787 Dreamliner, with the group having to take into account new routes extended due to the overflight ban from Russian airspace due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Boeing 777X could have been selected but it is not yet certified. “We assume that the ban on Russian overflights is relevant at least in the medium term.“, Ben Smith told reporters.
Air France-KLM will also be one of the launch operators of the Airbus A350F Cargo, the Franco-Dutch group having ordered 8 aircraft of this version with a view to renewing and expanding its cargo fleet.
To date, the Air France-KLM group operates a total fleet of 533 aircraft to more than 300 destinations around the world. Once this A350 order is placed, the group will have an order book of more than 220 aircraft, including 100 of the Airbus A320neo family, the first deliveries of which are expected by the end of 2023.