Air France Eyes Up To 70 Airbus A220s

Airbus is closing in on a massive deal with French flag carrier, Air France. Said to involve ‘dozens’ of A320neo family aircraft and as many as 70 A220s, the deal would allow Air France to put in place a renewal strategy for its aging medium-haul fleet. Expected to be announced in the company’s half-year results presentation at the end of this month, the order would be worth billions to Airbus.

Air France A318
The A220 would replace smaller Air France planes such as the A318. Photo: Thomas CUELHO via Flickr

Air France is well overdue for a short and medium-haul fleet makeover. Their A320 family jets are getting rather old, with average ages of around 18 years and some veteran individuals as old as 25. As such, the carrier is looking to Airbus to provide a much-needed refresh.

According to Reuters, Airbus is working out a deal with the airline that could include ‘dozens’ of A320 family aircraft and as many as 70 A220s. Air France has, as yet, been keen to remain neutral. Simple Flying reached out to Air France for comment, to which they said,

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“Air France is pursuing work on its medium-haul fleet renewal. No decision has been taken at this stage.”

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The airline has previously indicated that it would like to start placing its short and medium-haul fleet from 2021. If the deal is as large as reports would indicate, it would be worth billions to Airbus, giving them a big boost in the wake of Boeing’s surprise 200 plane MAX order from Airbus customer IAG.

Up to 70 A220s

According to Reuters, the deal being fleshed out will include as many as 50 – 70 A220 type aircraft, previously known as the Bombardier C-Series. The Canadian designed jet has proven to be a hit with airlines since it received its Airbus branding, securing 50% as many orders in the first year as Bombardier did in a decade.

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Air France A319
Both the A318s and the A319s have fleet members ready for renewal. Photo: Wikimedia

According to data at PlaneSpotters, Air France has 18 A318s in their fleet with an average age of 14.2 years. The A319 is older, at an average age of 18.1 years, and there are 33 in their fleet. In fact, their oldest A319 is registered F-GPMD and was delivered in September 97, making it 22.9 years old.

The A220 is a great replacement for these smaller Airbus aircraft. Simple Flying suspect that the announcement will be closer to the lower end of the Reuters estimate, as 70 would be something of a big capacity increase.

‘Dozens’ of A320neo family aircraft

Reuters suggests that the A320 order would be in the dozens, which could mean anything from 12 to over 100. The airline currently has 43 A320 aircraft, plus another 20 A321s. Of the A320s, 27 are under 10 years of age, meaning up to 26 could be in line for renewal.  Most of their A321s are over ten years old.

Air France A321
The larger A321 is also up for renewal. Photo: Herbert Frank via Flickr

In fact, they have some very old A321s hanging around at the moment, with five A321-100s averaging 24.6 years old, and 15 A321-200s at 14.1 years old. The oldest A321 is F-GMZA, which was also delivered in September 97. However, it had previously served with Air Inter for three years and is now just over 25 years old.

As such, the order for A320neos is likely to be in the 40 – 50 range; but that’s purely a Simple Flying estimate. Time will tell.

When will we know for sure?

According to Aeronautics Online, the French press has indicated that an announcement will take place towards the end of this month. Specifically, they have suggested that it the order could be announced at the carrier’s half-year results presentation, which is earmarked for July 31st.

The fleet renewal at Airbus seems to be thorough. Already the carrier has started to put in place plans for the A380s retirement and is eagerly awaiting delivery of their first A350-900. Previously, the airline had on order a number of 787 Dreamliners also, but those will now go to KLM, with KLM’s seven A350s now heading to Air France.

air-france-new-a350-painted
Air France is eagerly awaiting delivery of their A350. Photo:Air France/Airbus

As well as renewing their fleet, Air France has been overhauling the cabins on many of their existing aircraft. All of their A330s are due to be refurbished by 2020 with a brand new business class that ticks a lot of PaxEx boxes. Adding new aircraft to its fleet to replace those aging airframes will be the icing on the cake for the carrier.

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Norman

Are aircraft delivered to customers strictly according to the dates in which firm orders are received? If so IAG may have dug a hole for itself and be stuck with Boeing even if the order was not a firm one since they would be far down the queue now for Airbus orders.

Ghiom

Good call by AF to entertain A220s.

Fred Christiansen

If Air France goes for the A220’s as replacements for its A318’s and A319’s, what future do these models have? Or is their distinction in operational capabilities to support all 4 models: A220-100, -300, A318 (neo?), and A319neo?

Kevin

Untied Airlines is on the way for old A318/9.

Frank

If the deal is as large as reports would indicate, it would be worth billions to Airbus, giving them a big boost in the wake of Boeing’s surprise 200 plane MAX order from Airbus customer IAG.

Joanne, the IAG order is actually a letter of intent and historically (as Simple Flying has previously stated in an article about the Paris Air Show) over 50% of LOI’s from the air show never get turned into firm orders, with deposits. Since IAG never even let it be known that it was needing 200 aircraft for it’s fleet and never solicited an offer from Airbus (highly unusual as they usually play one maker against another), this smells of a smoke and mirrors move to shore up the share price and keep investors happy.

Cash on the barrel-head and so far it’s $4.9 billion for the 2nd quarter…not revenues to Boeing, but losses.

Michael Pearce

Any word on any orders for KLM/Transavia for short-haul replacement? Whilst KLM Cityhopper will receive the E195-E2 to replace the 737-700s, A replacement for the Dutch arms’ 737 fleets are long overdue. The oldest KLM 737s are approaching 25 years old. Likely to be 737 MAX replacement but time will tell. I’m guessing this would come with this AF order?