Air France will add sixty A220-300 aircraft to its fleet from September 2021. The planes will replace the carrier’s aging A318 and A319 aircraft. The carrier also announced plans to fully retire its fleet of ten A380s by 2022. Previously the airline announced that three would be removed, while the future of the other seven remained uncertain.
Cheaper, Quieter, Greener: The A220
The 150-seat A220-300s will operate on the Air France short-haul and mid-haul network, allowing the company to reduce its per-seat operating costs by 10%. The carrier also points out that the new planes produce 20% lower CO2 emissions and are significantly quieter than the prior generation of aircraft.
The new aircraft also deliver a compelling passenger experience, with wider seats and aisles and larger overhead bins. The carrier indicated that the planes will be equipped with inflight wifi connectivity, both for passengers and crew. A vendor is not identified in the release. Global Eagle provides WiFi on the single-aisle fleet today while Gogo keeps the wide-body planes connected. Given the fleet’s operational footprint the EAN offering from Inmarsat could also be a viable option.
We are very pleased to work with Airbus to add the A220-300 to our fleet, an aircraft that demonstrates optimum environmental, operational, and economic efficiency…This aircraft will also provide our customers with additional comfort on the short- and medium-haul network and will provide our pilots with a connected cockpit with access to the latest navigation technology.– Benjamin Smith, CEO of the Air France-KLM Group
In addition to the inflight connectivity Air France will continue to offer its
The A220 deal also includes and additional 30 options and 30 acquisition rights.
Beaching the A380 Whales
Cost considerations doomed the A380 fleet for Air France, with the Air France/KLM group highlighting maintenance and cabin refresh concerns in the announcement.
The current competitive environment limits the markets in which the A380 can profitably operate. With four engines, the A380 consumes 20-25% more fuel per seat than new generation long-haul aircraft, and therefore emits more CO2. Increasing aircraft maintenance costs, as well as necessary cabin refurbishments to meet customer expectations reduce the economic attractiveness of Air France’s A380s even further. Keeping this aircraft in the fleet would involve significant costs, while the aircraft programme was suspended by Airbus earlier in 2019.
Despite the A380’s appeal for travelers the type proved economically challenged.That ultimately led to Airbus announcing the end of production earlier this year, with the final deliveries to Emirates expected in 2021.
Air France will consider new generation aircraft, including the A350 and 777X, as A380 replacements. A decision on that order will come at a later time.
In addition to the A380 replacement, Air France must come up with a choice on renewing its A320/A321 fleet. Transavia, also part of the AFKLM group, must choose a 737 replacement in the not too distant future as well.