What Happened To KLM’s Airbus A350 Order?

In June 2013, the Air France-KLM Group placed an order for 25 Airbus A350-900s, with an option to take another 25. It was later decided that Air France would take 21 of the new jets, and KLM would take seven. KLM’s CEO at the time said that the order was to “open up a new chapter.” However, the Dutch airline never took the plane. So what happened to the order?

KLM A350
What happened to the Airbus A350s intended for KLM? Photo: Airbus

Long-haul fleet simplification prompted a swap

For those who had hoped to see an Airbus A350 sweep in towards Schiphol in KLM’s blue-and-white livery, dreams were dashed a little over a year ago. In April 2019, in the name of fleet simplification, it was decided that all seven of the A350s on order for the Dutch flag-carrier would go instead to sister airline Air France.

At the time, the Air France-KLM group had an outstanding order for 28 of the Airbus wide-body. Twenty-one were meant for Air France, and seven for KLM.  However, the carriers came to the mutual arrangement that Air France would be the sole operator of the A350. Thus, the entire Airbus A350 order was transferred.

It was decided that KLM would move towards simplifying its long-haul fleet and focusing only on operating Boeing 777s and 787s. However, it still needed new planes. The carriers agreed that KLM would instead take the six outstanding Boeing 787 Dreamliners the group had on order for Air France.

“The airlines will effectively swap the remaining firm Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 orders between them, in order to realize fleet efficiencies through harmonization and accelerated growth of similar aircraft at both airlines,” the Air France-KLM Group said in a statement at the time seen by Simple Flying.

What Happened To KLM’s Airbus A350 Order?
KLM took delivery of its first 787-10 in June 2019 after the order had been transferred from Air France in exchange for the A350s.

KLM instead took the 787-10

This meant that KLM, at the time operating 13 787-9s, would add the stretched 787-10 to its fleet. The first one arrived in Amsterdam on June 29th, 2019, bearing the KLM 100 Years celebratory livery. It has since received another four, with the latest being delivered in February this year. This brings KLM’s current Dreamliner fleet up to a total of 18, with another three soon on the way.

Air France continued to operate the seven 787s it already had in its fleet at the time, and, as planned, it has taken delivery of another three since the decision to switch was made. All of Air France’s ten Dreamliners are of the 787-9 variant, with the last one arriving in July this year after a delivery gap of a little over a year.

A350 Air France
Air France took delivery of its first A350 in September 2019. Photo: Getty Images

Air France will have a total of 38 A350s

However, taking over the A350s intended for KLM proved, at the time, not enough for Air France. Having decided to gradually retire its superjumbo A380s, it placed an order for an additional ten of the Airbus twin-engine twin-aisle jet in December 2019. This meant that the total order number increased to 38, of which the airline has thus far taken delivery of six.

The first three arrived between September and November 2019, and the latter three from February to June 2020. Of course, this will by no means make Air France an Airbus widebody-focused airline. Beyond the ten 787-9s, it also has a fleet of 70 Boeing 777s, although the latter are getting on a bit in age.