Here’s How Air France Wants to Replace the A380

Jul 31, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Air France is the latest airline to announce plans to retire its Airbus A380s, a move that comes just six months after the airframer closed the program.

The majority of the SkyTeam alliance carrier’s 10 A380s are less than a decade old, with the first entering service in 2009. The last aircraft will leave its fleet by the end of 2022, saving Air France at least 400 million euros ($446 million) in needed maintenance and cabin investments.

The question now is how will Air France replace its superjumbos. More “new generation” twin-engined wide-body aircraft is the answer, according to Air France-KLM Group chief executive Benjamin Smith in his remarks during a second-quarter results presentation on Wednesday.

Air France is in discussions with both Airbus and Boeing over an order for up to nine A330-900, A350-900 or 787-9 aircraft to replace the A380s, said Smith.

“All the choices that are out there are definitely an improvement for us,” he said citing fuel burn per seat savings of up to 25% compared to the jumbo jet.

Air France A350 in progres
Assembly of an Air France A350-900. (Photo by F. Lancelot/master films by Airbus)

The A350 and 787, however, may have a leg up on the re-engined A330neo. Air France already has firm orders for 28 A350-900s with the first due in September, and operates nine 787-9s with a 10th due next year.

Air France’s 787s are configured with 276 seats, including 30 lie-flat business class seats, 21 premium economy seats, and 225 economy seats.

Air France's first Boeing B787 taxis on the tarmac after its landing for delivery at Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle airport in Roissy on December 2, 2016. / AFP / ERIC PIERMONT (Photo credit should read ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images)
Air France’s first Boeing B787 (Photo by ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images)

In addition, its sister carrier KLM operates 14 787s and has firm orders for another 13 aircraft. It took delivery of its first 787-10 earlier in July.

Smith, responding to analyst questions, acknowledged Air France’s ability to leverage the existing A350 orders and 787 fleet to replace the A380s. He did not provide more details of the deliberations.

At the same time, the carrier operates 15 A330-200s, its latest fleet plan shows. The A330neo is designed to complement the existing A330s, both in terms of maintenance and pilot training.

Ordering more A350s or 787s makes sense if Air France aims to continue to streamline its wide-body fleet. Smith called the fleet “extremely complex today,” and highlighted the airline’s various initiatives to simplify its operation.

Air France will remove its five Airbus A340s by 2021, and plans to retrofit its 68 Boeing 777s with three seating configurations instead of the current seven layouts. At the same time, the layouts of the A350s and 787s will be standardized.

“The operating performance of this fleet will be much improved,” said Smith of the on-going wide-body fleet initiatives.

Air France will operate a wide-body fleet of A330s, A350s, 777s and 787s when the current initiatives are complete. Its largest aircraft will be the 777-300ER with up to 468 seats.

Featured image by Bruno Geiger / Flickr.


Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.