Air France Studies Stretched Airbus ‘A220-500’ For Future Medium Haul Fleet

The Air France-KLM group is today holding its 2019 investors day. Here the group announced that Air France could order the Airbus “A220-500” in the future. This would be used to develop its medium-haul fleet.

Air France, Airbus, A220-500
Air France told Simple Flying it would examine the Airbus A220-500. Photo: Airbus

In July, Air France announced a huge order for the Airbus A220. The airline committed to a firm order for 60 Airbus A220-300 aircraft. However, the order didn’t stop there. In addition, the airline placed options for a further 30 aircraft, as well as acquisition rights for 30 more. However, Air France could take more than just the A220-300, as the airline today confirmed to Simple Flying that it would examine any stretched Airbus A220 models offered.

Future narrowbody fleet

So far, details are fairly sketchy, coming from a single slide in the Air France-KLM investor day presentation. The slide mentions how the airline currently operates nine different cockpits. However, it wants to optimize its future fleet to consist of five to seven cockpits.

Currently, the airline operates 114 narrowbody aircraft ranging from the Airbus A318 to the Airbus A321. This excludes regional aircraft. Heading into the future, this will change to around 60 Airbus A320 aircraft, in addition to 60 Airbus A220s. This will give a total fleet of 110-115.

Air France, Airbus, A220-500
Air France hinted to the Airbus A220-500 in its 2019 investor day presentation. Photo: Air France

What about the Airbus A220-500?

Air France has listed its future Airbus A220 options on its presentation slide too. However, this is where it gets interesting. The orders and options for the A220 have been listed as “A220-300 -500(?)”. This suggests that the airline’s future options for the aircraft could convert to a stretched -500 version of the aircraft.

When speaking with Air France, a representative of the airline told Simple Flying:

“Airbus has the technical possibility, in the future, to stretch the A220-300 with a larger capacity aircraft. If this were the case, we would examine this option for the future development of the Medium-haul fleet (post 2025)”

Will the Airbus A220-500 become a reality?

Airbus has yet to confirm an Airbus A220 stretch such as the A200-500. As such, it is impossible to say that such an aircraft will be made. However, if the European plane manufacturer sees sufficient demand, it will likely go ahead with the project.

Air France, Airbus, A220-500
The Airbus A220 is becoming a popular choice for airlines. Photo: airBaltic

A large airline group such as Air France-KLM will be in constant discussions with manufacturers such as Airbus. Additionally, it is unlikely that they would mention an aircraft in their annual investor presentation if they didn’t think there was a realistic possibility of it becoming an option. While the aircraft has not been confirmed, Air France confirmed to Simple Flying that they would examine the aircraft should it become a reality.

At the Paris Air Show, the aircraft manufacturer issued the following comment regarding the Airbus A220-500: “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.”

EDIT: An Airbus representative offered the following statement:

“As a leading aircraft manufacturer, we are in constant dialogue with our customers and constantly looking at potential ways of improving our products. However, not all studies see the light of day. We are focused on ramping-up and selling our current aircraft models, the -100 and the -300. The platform has the potential to grow but we are focused on ramping-up the programme and supporting our new customers’ entry-into-service. In the long-term, the platform would evolve according to the Airbus product policy. We have no further comment on our product policy.”

Do you think we could see Airbus launching an A220-500? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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Prestwick Pioneer

It’s a no brainer. The A220-500 will replace the A320-200. That’s the plan.
All A32x developments continue around the A321, not the 320. Airbus could also develop A220-700 or -900 for short range high density. But I think we will see the 321 incorporate some A350 stylings in future with a new wing and similar tail and nose to the 350 while the A220 replaces the A319/320.

Karl

The A321 is 6.93 meters longer (i.e. 13 fuselage frames) than the A320 — it was stretched by 8 frames ahead of the wing and 5 frames aft of the wing. Each frame is 0.53 meters long ( 21 inches). In contrast, the 737-900NG is only 2.4 meters longer than the 737-800-NG, while the 737-10-MAX is 1.68 meters longer than the 737-900-NG/-9-MAX and 4.08 meters longer than the 737-800-NG/-8-MAX. Hence, Airbus could easily stretch the current A320-200neo by, say, 3 economy class seat rows; or five fuselage frames (i.e. 2.67 meters) — 3 frames ahead of the wing and 2… Read more »

Paul Proctor

All told that’s a lot of investment in development and certification with some overlapping capabilities. I also question whether you could really stretch an A321XLR by five frames, the A-320 is an old airframe. I suppose it’s easy if you are spending someone else’s money That you don’t have to give back when you fail (government subsidies), but they might not be available unless Airbus chooses to ignore WTO.

Ueli Praett

I think, it’s a good and solid comment of Karl. If I would decide I would leave the MTOW of the -500 equal to -300 and reduce the range accordingly, thus avoiding to cannibalize the 320 family. There will be an overlapping area of use in terms of passengers. But in terms of cargo on paletts the 320 is more versatile and flexible. As far as I know there are quite a couple of local airports which are restricted to 80 tons. So there is a natural limit for increasing the MTOW.

Roman Radomyslsky

Not sure why AirFrance would not retire the CRJs 700/1000 in favor of Embraer 170/190. CRJ 700 are similar in capacity to Embraer 170 and CRJ 1000 are similar in capacity to Embraer 190. Operating cost per available seat mile and technical performance of Embraers is generally superior to CRJs. These two seem unnecessarily redundant (unless they want to see at least two manufacturers in each fleet type). That would seem plausible as they also have “future replacement” as a TBD for 320/321 potentially hinting at a bargain 737-MAX reincarnations.

David C

The A220 is significantly more efficient than the Embraer 170/190. Even more efficient than the 190 E2. It also has a composite airframe that allows for longer time between major service checks so the maintenance costs are lower. Over the long run, those efficiencies mean overall cost per passenger mile goes down below the Embraer offering even with the higher up front purchase cost (A variable that Airbus is trying drastically to reduce). Plus, by telegraphing this, if Airbus does stretch the A220, Air France could become the European launch customer, thus being in the position to negotiate a considerable… Read more »

Paul Proctor

Yes, I’ve read the A-220 is so costly to make that even with efficiency gains and supplier cost cuts (and a new Alabama factory), it won’t make money for a loooong time.

Montreal Alophone

Yes, Paul, you read correctly. A220 (or C-series as I knew it) is an excellent aeroplane but also bloody expensive to manufacture. Simply said, engineers did not know when to stop adding fancy stuff, and (sadly) nether did the management, with fairly obvious consequences. Great peace of flying machinery with commensurately great production cost.

Vince

David, the A320 no doubt is a very efficient aircraft but you’re really over selling its efficiency. The E2 jets are actually more efficient than the A220 for missions under 500nm. Going beyond that point, the scale tips rapidly in favour of the A220. Going beyond 1200nm or roughly 3hrs of flight, the A220 is basically unmatched in terms of the operating costs and efficiency for their given capacities.

Montreal Alophone

A correction is warranted here. CS100 was done first, and then everything was redone for a slightly heavier version that was CS300, though nearly in parallel. I doubt any further stretching would be inexpensive, as wing will likely have to be resized and that is a major expense with composite structures.

Frank

The -500 won’t be offered anytime soon, as it would cannibalise orders of the A-320, which is what Bombardier would have liked to do – had it kept the program. Since it’s a new day now, Airbus will want to do two things:
1) Run down the backlog on the A-320 &
2) Utilise it’s option to purchase the remaining shares in the C-Series to own it outright.

David C

It is a MAX killer and already a plane on paper. For Boeing to compete against it they would need a new clean sheet aircraft that incorporates the manufacturing efficiency and technology developed for the dreamliner. And the A220 is still a more efficient aircraft than the A320Neo. But they need to get the cost of manufacturing down. I bet one buck (The Trading places bet) that the A220-500 goes from paper to reality in the next 12-18 months. Air France would not have mentioned it if it wasn’t under serious consideration. Plus if Air France does get Airbus to… Read more »

Jack Abbott

Boeing has the finances and engineering resources to build a plane that may compete with the A220, but there are key ingredients missing and I doubt that Boeing can ultimately pull it off. Internal politics and lack of imagination are potential obstacles, reflected in the constant 737 airframe re-hash. Bombardier CSeries engineers wanted it all: incredible wings and flight controls, unmatched fuel efficiency and low-speed maneuverability, huge engines for crazy shortfield takeoff capability, a lifespan of a DC-9 and fewer maintenance visits.Of course, all these special flight capabilities required expensive premium components and gave Airbus a headache when they inherited… Read more »

David C

I think Airbus saw it for what it was. A new generation of aircraft that was beyond what was available from any other manufacturer. And they could acquire it without having to give more than $1 towards the up front development costs. Why wouldn’t they. Bombardier was hogg tied. They were cash strapped and unable to convince airlines to buy in mostly because the airlines were afraid they would end up with an orphan if Bombardier collapsed. The symbiotic relationship between Airbus and Bombardier allows Airbus to apply the “this is not going anywhere” label to the airframe and provides… Read more »

Paul Proctor

You should study up on Boeing finances. It’s a hugely strong company financially and compensation claims from airlines is not necessarily cash out but price discounts for new jetliners or credits for parts and engineering services over many years.

David C

Their financial position is not horrible. However, they have to pick a line to work on. Pick the 737 replacement and the A321XLR cannibalizes the NMA Market. (Airlines have been begging for a 757 replacement for decades). Pick the NMA and make a wide-body, and they smoke Airbus and the A321XLR. The 777x development is still hemorrhaging money, and the MAX line is not making any revenue. They may have great cash reserves, but to think that they are a healthy corporation that can innovate with impunity is incorrect. And the bleeding from the MAX tragedy has not yet really… Read more »

Abe

But. Why would Boeing want to build a plane to compete with the A220 when they have just spent billions to buy Embraer commercial…

Paul Proctor

Or Air France is trying to pressure Airbus into doing A220-500, by alerting the French government to the possibility. Regardless this would give AF pricing leverage, either as a launch customer or regretfully having to take more dated A320neo- series….

Trent

Always sad to see the quad jets left off future plans. Pour one out.

Hein Vandenbergh

Another stretch to far, or of the imagination…. MAX, A340-600 anyone? Even the NG-900 or 767-400, not exactly ripping success stories…..

Paul Proctor

Agree about stretches, if you are talking about a second or third stretch. First one is usually built into the program.

Jack Abbott

In the interests of competitive fares, large seats in economy and reduced emissions, Air France, Korean and Delta should loudly call for the A220-500 and have Airbus ram it through. Airlines should also demand the new stretched plane match the takeoff performance and range of the A220-300. Pratt needs to bump up the thrust, increase the durability and reliability of its geared turbofans. It has enough trouble obtaining full thrust from existing PW1524Gs. Teach Boeing a lesson and remind them that the CSeries could have been their plane.

Paul Proctor

I don’t think Boeing ever seriously wanted the C-series, at least from what I saw at HQ. They filed the trade complaint to stop A220 series from becoming successful enough to introduce a stretched -500 version., which would have been a competitor. Also recall their experience owning deHavilland. Finally, it’s tough to make money on small planes built in high-cost countries. All these engine and airframe upgrades and changes and performance improvements recommended by the aviation enthusiasts on these websites are easy to say….but expensive to do. Remember the business case has to close

Alex

A319neo and A320neo are ideal for customers with large existing A320 family fleets, as they won’t need to stock extra spare parts, retrain pilots etc. to transition to a hybrid A220/A320 fleet. Depending on how long an airline plans operating the aircraft for, surely the extra cost of inducting a new aircraft type into the fleet would offset the small difference in operating cost/efficiency between the A220 and A320 families? Plus if Airbus do launch the A220-500 it’s likely deliveries will start mid-2020’s which coincidentally is the end of the production backlog of the A320neo. So short term the A320neo… Read more »

David C

If Boeing announces a 737 replacement development program based on the 787 technology advances, smart money is on the A220-500 being announced as well. Why? because the A220-500 has already flown on paper and its wing box, undercarriage, wings and avionics are common withe A220-300. They could get a test vehicle flying in 12-18 months. the 737 replacement will be a new training suite as well. It will not be common with the older 737’s. That is part and partial to the issues with the MAX and the attempt to do type commonality. Its going to be an interesting 12-18… Read more »

Loveplanes

The 500 series will become a reality. There are many advantages to having the A220 family include a higher capacity, longer range version. For starters, common type ratings. An airline can fill an incredible niche with 3 A220 variants and reduce costs compared to taking A220s and then taking an A320. The next compelling case is going to be about carbon footprint.