Updated: Jul 18, 2019
Air France is currently in discussions with manufacturer’s over a major aircraft order for both the flag carrier and its low cost subsidiary, Transavia. Additionally, Air France will likely reveal plans that will change the look of its future as it rethinks its fleet.
According to sources for La Tribune, Air France is in negotiations with Airbus for a possible A220 order which it will, if everything goes to plan, announce at the end of the month. The new aircraft order, which could total more than 50 planes, would help replace Air France’s Airbus A318, A319, A320 and A321s which form the carrier’s short haul fleet. However, that’s not all. According to the sources, Air France is also discussing possible orders for the Airbus A320Neo and would split the fleet replacement 50-50 between the two aircraft. With over 100 Airbus A320Ceo family jets in service, Air France is predicted to need a replacement by 2021. While somewhat smaller than the A320 or A321, the Airbus A220 is significantly more efficient and is therefore an interesting aircraft. The doubt still remains though, as a result of the Airbus A220’s lack of experience in the market. However, one of the biggest Airbus A220 operators worldwide, airBaltic, is really happy with its fleet which have performed above expectations, according to CEO, Martin Gauss in an interview with AeroNewsX.
Low-cost subsidiary, Transavia, will also see a massive fleet renovation, with the Boeing 737 MAX at the top of the list. Currently, Transavia’s growth is peaked at 40 aircraft in terms of its fleet.
However, pilot union SNPL said they were ‘willing’ to negotiate a deal which would see Transavia’s limit removed, allowing for further growth. It is no secret that the Boeing 737 MAX’s reputation has reduced dramatically following two deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia involving the type. However, Transavia remains confident in the future of the aircraft. It is likely that if the Transavia management and SNPL come to a consensus about the growth cap and Boeing fixes all remaining issues with the MAX, an order will be placed. By the end of July, Transavia pilots will have voted on the 40 aircraft growth cap and a result will have been announced.
Although a massive step forward, Transavia’s growth remains limited. The low cost airline will only be allowed to grow at its existing bases at Paris Orly, Nantes and Lyon airports. With a fleet consisting solely of singe-aisle jets, foreign bases are prohibited and routes cannot be longer than 3000nm. Finally, Transavia cannot compete with parent company Air France, on any route.
The report by La Tribune also detailed plans to fully retire the Airbus A380s, contrary to Air France-KLM Group CEO, Benjamin Smith, who said that the carrier would keep 7 out of 10 aircraft in service. This would be brought through the non-renewal of 3 Airbus A380s, a number which will increase to 5 now with the new plans. Additionally, Air France is in talks to withdraw the remaining 5 owned aircraft, by possibly selling them back to Airbus, similar to Lufthansa. The aircraft will have left the fleet by either 2023 or 2024.
Inevitably, as the Airbus A380s will be withdrawn, Air France will need a replacement. The carrier is looking towards smaller wide-body jets that generate more return than the Airbus A380s, with the sources mentioning the Boeing 787 and Airbus A330Neo as the top contenders.
Finally, the Airbus A321XLR is being studied for potential flights to African capitals, a region which Air France has focused on over the past few years.
In conclusion, Air France is booming despite the difficult 2018 and first quarter of this year. With plans to withdraw its ageing jets and replace them with newer, more efficient aircraft, things are looking good. What’s to come is of course unknown, but what’s clear, is Air France’s commitment to offering a modern and affordable product.
UPDATE 18/07: A380 replacement expected to be A330Neo or A350-1000.