Air France and KLM to add the A350 and 787 : an analysis

 Air France and KLM today announced that they will be adding both the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 to their fleet. Which aircraft would these replace, and where could they fly to? We’re going to find out.

The order composition

 While the exact order composition is yet to be announced, Air France has confirmed that out of the 60 A350s ordered, at least 25 will be A350-900s. The carriers further confirmed that through 2024, the two carriers will operate at least 43 A350-900s and 30 787-9s. This is an indication that at least a sizeable portion of this order will be split between the A350-900 and the 787-9.

 With the A350-1000 presently in apparent limbo, it is unlikely that the two airlines will commit to the larger variant anytime soon. The fate of A350-1000 with KLM is further uncertain owing to the fact that the airline tends to utilize its Boeing 777-300ERs, a type which the A350-1000 is supposed to replace, largely as a people mover on low-yielding high density routes. To achieve a lower unit cost on these routes, KLM must use a 10 abreast seating configuration on the 777′s Economy class – something that is impossible on the A350-1000 owing to its slightly smaller fuselage width. However, a Boeing 787-10 as the proposed A330-300 replacement will highly appeal to KLM which already operates the A330-300.


 The airlines have stated that they will use the new types for replacing the 200-350 seater aircraft presently in its fleet. What could they replace?

The Air France’s present fleet falling into this category is as follows.

Type – Number in fleet
Airbus A330-200 : 14
Airbus A340-300 : 16
Boeing 777-200ER: 25
Boeing 777-300ER ( Some versions only ) : 34 + 8 on order

The present KLM fleet that fall under this category are

Airbus A330-200 : 11
Airbus A330-300 : On order
Boeing 777-200ER : 15

Fleet data from Innovata

 All of these aircraft are candidates for replacement and by 2024, the likely fleet for the two airlines ( barring any future wide-body orders ) would be as below.

Air France

  • Airbus A320 family
  • Airbus A350 family
  • Boeing 787 family
  • Airbus A380

  • Boeing 737 family
  • Boeing 787 family
  • Airbus A350 family
  • Boeing 777


 It is too early to predict on which kind of routes will the two aircraft models fly, but one thing for sure is that they’ll fly worldwide, throughout the network for both carriers. So here’s a map with the maximum range of both aircraft types taken into consideration with A350-900 and the Boeing 787-9 as the base models. ( Range figures quoted from official Airbus and Boeing specifications ) Shown in blue colour is the range out of Amsterdam for KLM and in red is the range out of Paris Charles De Gaulle for Air France. Major cities are marked for reference.

The A350-900

The Boeing 787-9


It must be however be noted that this map shows the maximum design range and that it is not guaranteed if any of the types will actually achieve this range. Even if they do, operating at this range would be impossible for any airline due to a number of practical reasons ranging from payload issues to hot and high runways. Hence the following map illustrates the actual coverage area which would be possible for both aircraft, taking 7250nm as the average maximum operational range.


Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

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