We recently found out that the head of Air France-KLM, Ben Smith, would be interested in a stretch version of the Airbus A220. The remarks were made during a financial results briefing on July 31st where Smith said the recent deal gives Air France some “flexibility”. These remarks relate specifically to the A220’s role in re-invigorating French-based short- and medium-haul travel.
“Making domestic France profitable is a huge effort, [but] is something that we must address…But all these pieces are interlinked.” -Ben Smith, AF-KLM CEO
According to FlightGlobal, Air France is in the middle of a “big study” to overhaul the airline’s domestic operations. One of the outcomes of this study, apparently, is that if Airbus develops a larger version of the A220, then the airline would be interested in switching to this variant, so says Smith.
The Airbus A220 is described by Smith as a “great tool” for restructuring Air France’s short- and medium-haul operations – especially the domestic network.
Restructuring regional and domestic operations
The FlightGlobal article also notes that Air France needs to restructure its regional operation HOP!, and at the same time expand the network role of its budget subsidiary Transavia. Furthermore, domestic shuttle flights from Paris Orly need to be optimized. Smith notes that optimization and operations-enhancement must happen at Orly because so few slots are available there.
We wrote about HOP! retiring and phasing out its ATR aircraft earlier this year. Maxime Patula, Air France Digital Communications and Press relations, tells Simple Flying that all ATRs will be phased out by the end of 2020: “This is part of the plan to rationalize the fleet,” he reports.
Announced at the end of last month, Air France has ordered up to 120 A220-300s. This comes in the form of 60 orders, as well as 30 options and 30 purchase rights. The A220, formerly the Bombardier CSeries, is available in the smaller -100 version and the larger -300. These two variants can accommodate as many as 135 and 160 passengers respectively.
In fact, before the program was acquired by Airbus, Bombardier had studied potential larger versions of the narrowbody twinjet. The Canadian airframer’s commercial aircraft president Fred Cromer had spoken to FlightGlobal three years ago, saying the aircraft’s existing wing would indeed be capable of supporting a larger derivative. Simple Flying has made some speculations on this too.
In May, Airbus disclosed that the aircraft would have a maximum take-off weight increase. This would be available as an option from 2020 to boost range.
As we wrote in our speculation piece, Airbus has made it clear that they don’t intend to build any new variants, and nothing would be announced in the next 12-months (from July 2019). This is because they first need to ensure that the production of the original 500 A220s goes as smoothly as possible.
“In the next 12 months, Airbus will not launch the A220-500. Before embarking on expansion projects of the A220 family, Airbus must first solve its productivity problems.” – 2019 Paris Air Show, Airbus Statement
So, then, do you think Airbus will be making an announcement next summer? At the 2020 Farnborough Airshow perhaps? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment!