It makes sense that French national airline Air France should be one of Airbus’ best customers. While the carrier operates a mixed fleet of dual-aisle Boeing and Airbus aircraft, its short-haul fleet consists entirely of jets from the European planemaker. With the arrival of its first Airbus A220 two days ago, Air France has now operated every single major Airbus type of aircraft.
The widebody jets
Air France took delivery of its first Airbus A300 aircraft in May 1974. The airline was the launch customer of the world’s first twin-engine widebody airliner. The carrier would go on to operate a total of 26 of Airbus’ first official jet ever to be built.
Ten of Air France’s A300s were of the A300B2 variant. Sixteen were of the later version A300B4, featuring a center fuel tank for increased capacity. The final A300 to be operated by Air France left the carrier’s fleet in February 1999.
The following Airbus aircraft joined the fleet ten years after the A300. Air France took delivery of the first of what was to be 11 of the A310 in April 1984. The final A310 arrived in 1991, whereas the last to leave did so in May 2002. Over half of Air France’s A310s found new life carrying cargo for freight operator FedEx.
Air France still operates the Airbus A330 (and on some very interesting routes), which took its first flight in 1992. However, the carrier did not take delivery of its first of the type until 2001. The average age of the 15 aircraft strong A330 fleet is now close to 19 years. Air France has operated 16 of the plane in total, having waved goodbye to just one in 2009.
One widebody that no longer flies for the airline, however, is the A340. The quadjet preceded the A330 into the skies by one year and was launched into service with Air France and Lufthansa in 1993. The last of Air France’s 30 A340s officially exited the airline’s fleet in the fateful month of March 2020.
Air France took delivery of its first A350-900 a mere two years ago in September 2019. While the aircraft has seen a lot less air time than would have been expected during its first time with the airline, Air France has thus far taken delivery of 11 of Airbus’ newest widebody and has another 27 on order. Apart from the A220, they are now the youngest aircraft in Air France’s fleet with an average age of 1.7 years.
The continuing crisis may have brought a premature end to many an A380. However, passengers out of Paris had the opportunity to fly on any of the airline’s ten superjumbos for a little over a decade. The airline took delivery of its first as the type’s fourth operator in October 2009.
Air France conceived a plan to retire them over the following years was before the pandemic hit. One left in December 2019, and one in February 2020. The remaining eight went in one fell swoop the following month. March 2020 essentially marked the end of Air France’s quadjet operations.
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The narrowbody planes
Air France still flies the smallest airliner of the A320 family. Out of the 80 units produced of the A318, 18 are with Air France’s fleet. With the first arriving in October 2003, a year and a half after the type’s maiden flight, the airline’s A318s have an average age of just over 16 years.
The A319, which preceded the A318 by seven years, first arrived with Air France in September 1997 – when it took no less than nine of the type. Operating a total of 49 of the A319 over the years, at the moment 30 still remain in the airline’s fleet, averaging just over 20 years of age.
Airbus has operated two versions of the A320, the -100 and the -200. The first of the former arrived in March 1988, and the last to leave did so in May 2010. Meanwhile, Air France still has 44 A320-400s in its fleet, averaging just over 12 years between them. The airline has previously said goodbye to as many as 52 of the type, of which the first arrived in August 1989.
The on average oldest planes in Air France’s fleet are its A321-100s. Five of them have been with the carrier since their arrival in September 1997. As they were operated by Air Inter for three years before the carrier’s merger with Air France, the aircraft are now close to 27 years old. The 14 longer-range A321-200s still with Air France average ten years less. With the first arriving in May 1997, the airline has operated a total of 25 of the variant.
Just two days ago, Air France took delivery of the first of what is to be a fleet of 60 A220-300s. And while it may not be the first French operator of the popular little jet – Air Austral beat the national airline to it by almost precisely two months – it is set to become Europe’s largest, in turn beating airBaltic by ten of the type.
Before the year is up, Airbus is set to deliver two more of the A220 to Air France in October, one in November, and two in December. If you want to take one of the first rides on Air France’s latest addition, make your way to or from Paris via Barcelona, Madrid, Berlin, Milan, or Venice. Service begins October 31st.
How many Air France Airbus jets have you flown on? Which one has been your favorite? Would you like to see Air France upgrade its aging narrowbody fleet with the neo versions of the A320 family? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.