Sunday, September 18, 2011

Air France / KLM to split long range aircraft order between Boeing and Airbus

Air France KLM revealed its long-awaited order for new-generation, long-range aircraft Friday, stating that its board approved the order of 50 firm aircraft plus 60 options. A spokesperson confirmed to ATW that the 50 firm aircraft are evenly divided between Airbus A350s and Boeing 787s. Air France KLM cautioned that the orders are "still subject to the finalization of discussions with the manufacturers."

The airline group said the orders and options will comprise a mix of A350s and Dreamliners, adding that "consistent with the provisional fleet plan, this order will result in the group's operation of 73 next-generation aircraft through 2024: 43 A350-900s and 30 787-9s." This indicates it anticipates to firm at least 23 options in a first stage. Airbus said in a statement that Air France KLM's order for 25 A350-900s "will be firmed up shortly."

The first 787-9 will enter into service with KLM in 2016 and the first A350-900 with Air France in 2018. "Later, both airlines will operate both types of aircraft," the group said. It is the company's first joint long-haul aircraft order since Paris-based Air France and Amsterdam-based KLM merged in 2004. The new aircraft will replace older widebodies as well as support growth.

The group said it had not yet made a choice of engines to power its 787s. The A350-900s will be equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, as it is the only engine "provided for this aircraft by the manufacturer," it specified.

A source confirmed that the group and Rolls had a falling out earlier this year over the latter's refusal to allow Air France Industries KLM Engineering & Maintenance, the group's aircraft maintenance department, to offer third-party maintenance on Trent engines. Air France KLM said in the statement Friday that within "the framework of this order, Air France Industries KLM Engineering & Maintenance is confirming its commitment to position itself as a key market player for the maintenance of these aircraft and their engines."

The company said memoranda of understanding will be signed with Airbus, Boeing and Rolls shortly and finalized contracts are expected before the end of the year. "The acquisitions are scaled to a size that can be financed through cash flow generated from group operations," it added.

(Cathy Buyck - ATWOnline News)   

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