Christmas is a week early for Airbus. In another blow to Boeing after the Letter of Intent earlier today from Qantas for 134 A320neo-family and A220s, tonight it’s KLM that will jump ship. Air France-KLM announced an order for 100 A320neo’s and A321neo’s for itself, Transavia, and Transavia France. Air France-KLM will also buy four A350Fs. KLM and Transavia also jump ship from Boeing to Airbus.

A decision on the renewal of the medium-haul fleet KLM fleet was imminent, with the airline saying in October that the selection was nearing the final ten laps of the race. But Boet Kreiken, executive vice president of customer experience at KLM, also said that it was a very tough decision.

Earlier reports from Reuters in December indicated that KLM might opt for the Airbus while Transavia and Transavia France would select the Boeing MAX. But the Air France-KLM Board of Directors today opted wholeheartedly for the European aircraft models “to move forward on the Group’s goal to improve its economic and environmental performance through the introduction of next-generation aircraft. In doing so, the Group also demonstrated its ability to leverage purchasing synergies.”

KLM will take an unspecified number of A320neo’s and A321neo’s. (Airbus)

While the KLM press release says it is still a Memorandum of Understanding, the Air France-KLM statement speaks of 100 aircraft on firm order plus purchase rights for another sixty. The Group hasn’t specified the numbers by airline, even after questions from AirInsight, but KLM and Transavia will get both the A320neo and A321neo. “They will be divided proportionally between the three parties”, Air France-KLM says in an email. If A321neo means it also includes the A321LR and XLR, the airline says: “We ordered the A321neo family.” Which seems not to rule out sub-versions.

Engine choice in due course

There is no word either on the engine choice, which will be made “in due course.” If synergies will play a factor, then the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan must be the favorite as it already powers the A220 fleet with Air France. Boet Kreiken said that the offerings from the engine manufactures would play an important role in the final selection.

When deliveries commence in the second half of 2023, the Airbus will begin replacing the existing Boeing 737-700s, -800s, and -900s. In the email to AirInsight, the airline says: “All 737s will be phased out gradually, which will take at least six years, starting in 2024.”
KLM has 46 Boeing 737s, Transavia 38, and Transavia France is about to grow its 737NG-fleet to 54. This makes 142 in total, so including the purchase rights, KLM and Transavia plan additional aircraft for future growth. Kreiken said in October that KLM would get some fifty aircraft.

KLM has a few pretty young NGs: it took delivery of four 737-800s in 2019, but they are all leased from Bocomm Leasing. However, the average age of the 737 fleet at KLM is 14.8 years, at Transavia 11.8 years, and at Transavia France 9.1 years. Part of the 737-700s at KLM is in the process of being replaced by the Embraer E195-E2.

Transavia and Transavia France have a combined 92 Boeing 737NGs that are likely to be replaced all by A320neo’s and A321neo’s. (Airbus)

The selection of the A320neo and A321neo for both Transavia and Transavia France comes somewhat as a surprise. In January 2019, the Dutch airline said it was close to finalizing an order for the Boeing MAX 10, which was supposed to be announced at the Paris Airshow. It was before the grounding of the MAX when AirInsight learned about this.
Kreiken confirmed in October that the 2019 plan played no longer a role in the imminent decision as the A320neo-family and the MAX 8 and 10 had become part of a new review process. The initial preference of Transavia France for Airbus was also gone. Eventually, KLM and Transavia will jump ship from Boeing to Airbus.

Air France will get four A350Fs

Air France-KLM also signed a Letter of Intent for four Airbus A350Fs plus purchase rights for another four. They will be placed with Air France, possibly by swapping outstanding orders for the A350-900. Air France recently received its eleventh -900 out of 38 on order.

In the media statement, Group CEO Ben Smith says: “These evolutionary orders will position our Group airlines on the path to improved performance while accelerating our decarbonization trajectory. This is a major step forward for KLM, Transavia, and Air France, which will operate the best aircraft available for their network needs. The outstanding performances of the A320neo family and of the A350F Full-Freighter, which are quieter, more fuel-efficient, and more cost-effective aircraft, make them the best choices for the long-term growth of our fleet. They will be instrumental in reaching our ambitious targets, including zero net CO2 emissions by 2050.”

KLM CEO Pieter Elbers says: “This order for fleet renewal is an important new step for KLM in achieving our objectives in terms of sustainability, customer experience, comfort, and efficiency. These new aircraft will allow us to substantially reduce CO2 emissions and noise levels. I’m glad that, by continually investing in our product, we can improve our efficiency and customer experience. The coronavirus pandemic has forced us to focus on survival for the past eighteen months. Now that we are on the road to recovery, we can look to the future once more. With this order, which is an important component of our restructuring plan, we will further prepare our company as well as our customer experience for the future.”

Airbus most happy

Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer said: “We are honored with Air France-KLM Group’s foresight, after an in-depth evaluation, to acquire the latest generation Airbus A320neo Family aircraft and A350F to modernize its European medium, short-haul, and cargo fleets. This milestone decision shows again that an aircraft’s value lies primarily in performance, reliability, fuel efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions, all criteria in which the Airbus product line excels.”

Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury tweeted: Thank you Air France-KLM for this show of confidence. We’re humbled by the magnitude and deep significance of your choice.”

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Active as journalist since 1987, starting with regional newspaper Zwolse Courant. Grand Prix reporter in 1997 at Dutch monthly Formule 1, general reporter Lelystad/Flevoland at De Stentor/Dagblad Flevoland, from 2002 until June 2021 radio/tv reporter/presentor with Omroep Flevoland.
Since mid-2016 freelance aviation journalist, since June 2021 fully dedicated to aviation. Reporter/editor AirInsight since December 2018. Contributor to Airliner World, Piloot & Vliegtuig. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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