KLM Mulls The Airbus A321 For Boeing 737 Replacement

Despite previously touting an all-Boeing future, Dutch airline KLM is now mulling over adding Airbus into its fleet. The airline has an aging Boeing 737 fleet and is currently looking for replacements as part of its fleet modernization. So just how will the A321 fit into KLM’s fleet strategy and what would this aircraft mean for KLM’s future?

737-800, KLM
With KLM’s 737s getting older, the airline could invest in the A321. Photo: Nicky Boogaard via Flickr

MAX uncertainty makes KLM turn to a competitor

KLM currently operates a fleet of 52 Boeing 737 aircraft in a mixture of variants. Most -700, -800 and -900 aircraft are between 10-20 years old and for that reason, KLM is soon looking to retire the older models.

Its initial replacement choice should have been the 737 MAX. It makes the most logical sense given the certification of its existing pilots. However, that’s currently not an option. Despite a hopeful FAA, Boeing does not foresee its aircraft returning to the skies until mid-2020 – although things are always subject to change.

Amid the MAX lengthy process towards a return to service, KLM has turned its attention to other aircraft and other manufacturers. Could Airbus be making aiarcraft for KLM in the future?

Just yesterday, 14 February, the leading national Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf shared information about KLM’s potential venture with Airbus. The newspaper reported that the CEO of KLM, Pieter Elbers, said the following:

“We have faith in the return of the Max, but at the same time also look at Airbus A321, given the uncertainty surrounding the Max.”

KLM Boeing fleet at airport
Why would KLM give up the hope for an all-Boeing fleet? Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

What happened to KLM’s all-Boeing fleet strategy?

This suspicion signals a change of heart for CEO Pieter Elbers. The airline will not be championing the all-Boeing fleet that he had once sought after.

When it comes to aircraft, KLM is no stranger to an Airbus model. Although its favor towards Airbus has not been as unyielding as the love it shows towards Boeing, it currently still operates aircraft from the airframer. That said, the Airbus A330 is on its way out. That decision recently prompted the CEO of KLM to make a significant decision for the fleet. Pieter Elbers said, as little as four months ago, that KLM would soon move to an all-Boeing fleet.

However, that may now have gone out of the window. How much did the all-Boeing strategy mean to KLM? And why would it consider the A321 over the MAX?

Why the A321?

Regarding additional fleet options, the A321 seems to be a no-brainer for Mr. Elbers and the KLM fleet. For a few good reasons…

A321neo, 2017
How would the A321 work in KLM’s fleet? Photo: Airbus

The A321neo, made by Airbus, would be the ‘hometown favorite’ as the company is registered in the Netherlands and has some of its operations in the country. Furthermore, a move to Airbus for its narrowbody aircraft may also help with customer confidence as the MAX will carry its controversial reputation with it.

If the airline comes to favor the A321, perhaps it will affect the future of its custom with Boeing.

What do you think? Is the A321 a good choice for KLM? Let us know in the comments.