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April 19, 2024
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Air France-KLM has placed an order for four Airbus A350Fs for its Dutch cargo subsidiaries Martinair and KLM Cargo. The aircraft will replace four aging Boeing 747-400Fs in the second half of 2026, the airline announced.

Replacement of the 747s has been expected for some time, with Group CEO Ben Smith saying last May during the Annual General Meeting that a decision was expected soon. Earlier this month, KLM CEO Marjan Rintel indicated that a decision would be a matter of weeks. The fleet renewal was originally scheduled for 2027 but has been shifted to 2026 as the airline wants to speed up the introduction of more efficient and sustainable aircraft. The A350F has forty percent lower fuel burn and emissions compared to the older generation freighters it will replace.  

Martinair used to be a separate airline until it was fully integrated into KLM in 2014. The airline operated charter flights until the mid-2000s before concentrating on cargo only with a fleet of McDonnell Douglas MD-11s, but the last aircraft was phased out in 2014. Only a single 747-400BCF in the red and white Martinair livery remains, but the aircraft is now over 32 years old. The aircraft operates on the Air France-KLM cargo network alongside three 747-400ERFs in blue KLM Cargo colors.

The selection of the Airbus A350F comes as no surprise, as Air France has also selected the type in late 2021 and confirmed an order for four aircraft in early 2022. Another four will be operated by French shipping company CMA CGM, which placed the order in December 2021, some months before the two companies announced a partnership and CMA CGM took a nine percent stake in Air France-KLM. The two airlines said they would coordinate their operations.

Adding the four A350Fs for KLM/Martinair makes sense from a synergy point of view, although it isn’t known at this moment if operations will be integrated within a single company. Air France, KLM, Martinair, and CMA CGM now operate all under individual Airline Operator Certificates.

The latest order brings the total number of A350Fs sold to 35, including orders from Air Lease Corporation, Air France, CMA CGM, Singapore Airlines, Silk Way West, and Etihad. The Martinair order was already included in the December backlog as an undisclosed order. 

Air France has also placed a follow-on order for three A350-900s for delivery in 2024. This brings the fleet to 41. The type entered the fleet in September 2019.

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Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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