Air France-KLM To Order 50 Airbus A350 Family Aircraft

AF A350-900 in clouds

Air France Airbus A350-900

Credit: Air France

PARIS—Air France-KLM announced it will place an order for 50 Airbus A350 family aircraft to be delivered starting in 2026, with purchase rights for 40 more, to replace A330s and older Boeing 777 aircraft as the Franco-Dutch group continues its fleet renewal and rationalization efforts. 

The group order, which is subject to standard company approvals, will cover 50 Airbus A350-900 and A350-1000 aircraft, along with purchase rights for 40 additional aircraft. First deliveries are expected in 2026 with remaining deliveries continuing through 2030.  

“This will be an evolutionary order, providing the group with flexibility to allocate aircraft within its portfolio of airlines, according to market dynamics and local regulatory conditions,” the airline group said Sept. 25.  

Air France-KLM CEO Benjamin Smith, who has made fleet renewal a priority since taking over in 2018, said: “This new order will be a major step in the renewal of the group’s fleet. The Airbus A350 is a state-of-the-art aircraft with an excellent track record at Air France, where it has rapidly become a favorite among passengers and crew since its entry into service in 2019.” 

Smith said the quieter, more fuel-efficient, and more cost-effective aircraft was “the perfect fit for the network needs of the group.”   
He added: “It will be instrumental in helping the group reach our ambitious sustainability targets, including -30% CO2 emissions per passenger kilometer by 2030.” 

The much-anticipated new order comes in addition to an existing Air France-KLM order for 41 A350-900s for Air France, of which 22 have been delivered to date. Air France-KLM is also set to be among the launch customers of the A350 Full Freighter version of the aircraft, having ordered eight aircraft to renew and expand its cargo fleet.  

The combined orders of up to 99 aircraft would make Air France-KLM the world’s largest operator of A350 aircraft, the group said.  
By 2028, the share of new generation aircraft in the group’s fleet is set to reach 64%, up from 5% in 2019. 

As of Sept. 25, Air France-KLM is operating a fleet of 533 aircraft. Once the latest order is placed, the group will have over 220 aircraft on order, including 100 A320neo family aircraft, with first deliveries expected by the end of 2023.  

Efforts to renew and rationalize its fleet are important not only for Air France-KLM’s decarbonization efforts but also as part of its drive to increase competitiveness. Newer, more efficient aircraft are also a valuable tool in fighting growing cost pressures amid high oil prices which are hurting the industry.  

Since Smith took over, the group has made progress in its fleet renewal, retiring its A340s and A380s during the coronavirus pandemic and placing some significant orders for new aircraft.  
It has 60 A220s on order, around half of which have already been delivered, with the rest due to join the fleet by the end of 2025. The group has opted for the A320neo family for fleet renewal at KLM, Transavia Netherlands and Transavia France, with aircraft set to enter the KLM fleet in 2024, later than planned because of replacing Boeing 737 NGs.  

Fleet renewal is under particular scrutiny for KLM, as the carrier seeks to convince authorities that it can cut noise at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol by itself, and that a government plan to cap flights to reduce noise is not needed.

Helen Massy-Beresford

Based in Paris, Helen Massy-Beresford covers European and Middle Eastern airlines, the European Commission’s air transport policy and the air cargo industry for Aviation Week & Space Technology and Aviation Daily.