Air-France KLM Shops for Widebody Jets as Long-Haul Travel Grows - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- Air France-KLM is looking to replace a set of aging widebody aircraft, seeking to pick up more fuel-efficient units from Airbus SE and Boeing Co. that can serve surging long-haul travel demand.
The airline group is shopping for replacements for Airbus A330 jets that average 20 years and a batch of two-decade old Boeing 777s, Chief Executive Officer Ben Smith said in an interview at the IATA annual general meeting in Istanbul. The carrier has already retired its fleet of Boeing 747s and A380s and has added more modern 787 Dreamliners and Airbus’s A350 aircraft.
Part of the evaluation process includes the new reality of having to circumnavigate Russian airspace following the invasion of Ukraine. That detour can add several hours to a flight and changes the requirements for the aircraft, Smith said.
“A plane that is optimized at 15 hours and one that’s optimized at 12 is not necessarily the same, so this of course now plays into the evaluation, where a year and a half ago would not have been the case,” Smith said.
Any fleet replacements are likely to happen in or after 2025 because no slots are available any sooner, Smith said. Airlines across the world are snapping up widebody jets as long-haul travel rebounds and stretches out waiting lists for newer, more fuel efficient jets.
Smith reiterated that the airline group remains interested in Portuguese carrier TAP, highlighting the airline’s “interesting geographical positioning” and its close ties with South America and Brazil in particular.
Still, the group is weighing any move on TAP, for which the Portuguese government has begun evaluating options, “with great caution and no emotion,” Smith said.
“It’s interesting under the right conditions,” Smith said.
--With assistance from Guy Johnson.