Following the announcement that Air France will retire their Airbus A380 fleet by 2022, it’s been disclosed the airline is assessing the A330neo as a replacement option.
Also in contention are the Airbus A350-900 and Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner; however the CEO of Air France-KLM Group, Benjamin Smith, states they are in advanced talks with Airbus.
To replace their fleet of 10 A380s, no more than nine twin-engine aircraft would be ordered from the winning manufacturer.
You may think going from a double-decker A380 to an A330neo is a bit of an odd decision; however with Air France’s mention of the A380s poor economics in their fleet it may just make perfect sense for them, especially for the thin and frequent routes in their network.
The additional flexibility will allow for easy re-positioning around the network and seasonal changes too.
Air France currently operates a strong fleet of Airbus aircraft ranging from the A318 to the A380, allowing for great simplicity when it comes to maintenance and crew training when adding aircraft to the fleet.
Also operating the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and 777 that share crew commonality across both airlines, the winning order will likely be based on best price and conditions; with the potential to have the A380 retirement arranged.
Citing Flight Global, should Airbus or Boeing offer a competitive price, the option to replace other ageing wide body aircraft could be exercised. However, the ultimate goal is to be careful with overall capital expenditure.
With a fleet of 15 Airbus A330-200 aircraft already established, the addition of the A330neo would be incredibly smooth; with only a small amount of retraining required (mainly difference training) for the pilots and maintenance engineers.
The commonality with the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines on their incoming A350s would further benefit the addition of the Trent 7000 powered A330neos.
This could be said for the 787 Dreamliner fleet, however Air France elected to use General Electric GEnx engines over the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 series.
No pressure is looming over the Air France-KLM Group regarding this order; so a decision isn’t expected anytime soon, however with advanced talks already being mentioned perhaps not.
What aircraft do you think Air France will choose for their A380 replacement?