KLM is looking to replace 32 long-haul and 53 regional aircraft, plus around 10 Boeing 737s, as part of a wide-ranging fleet renewal kicked off with the arrival of its first Embraer 190.
These needs could result in an order for around five 777-300ERs, up to 10 narrowbodies and a combined Air France-KLM order for 70-90 long-range twinjets, plus a large regional aircraft commitment.
The delivery this month of KLM Cityhopper's first E-190 launches a seven-year fleet renewal programme. Speaking at Embraer's headquarters in Sao Jose dos Campos at an event to mark the delivery, KLM senior vice-president for fleet development and aircraft trading Jan Witsenboer outlined KLM's mainline replacement plan.
He says that, as the airline eyes a replacement for five Boeing 747-400s, 17 747-400 combis and 10 MD-11s, it has effectively ruled out the passenger version of the 747-8. He says: "There is a limit to what we can fill. The 777-300ER is a very likely choice. It would be a one-for-one replacement."
Replacing the freight element of the 747 combis is proving more challenging. Witsenboer says: "Eventually we are going to have to split main-deck cargo from our passenger operation. All of the second-hand combis are the same age or older. Apparently there is not really a market any more for new combis."
The Dutch carrier is eyeing the A350 XWB and 787 as replacement candidates for its 27 combis and MD-11s. Combined with Air France, this joint long-haul order could total up to 90 aircraft.
Witsenboer is also urging for quicker progress in Airbus's and Boeing's narrowbody replacement projects. "We wouldn't use an interim solution. We want a definite solution, preferably much earlier," he says.
KLM has 11 737-700s on firm order, but it is seeking up to 10 more aircraft to replace its oldest narrowbodies - 10 737-300s and 13 737-400s - by 2013. He says: "The decision won't take very long. It will be taken from next year."
Regional airm KLM Cityhopper operates 12 Fokker 50s, 21 Fokker 70s and 20 Fokker 100s and managing director Michel Coumans says: "Six or seven years from now we will have our whole Fokker fleet renewed. It could be a two-type fleet."
By 2010 all but five Fokker 100s will be replaced with E-190s and, over the same time horizon, KLM Cityhopper will take five additional Fokker 70s from Air France-KLM Group sister carrier Regional, building its total to 26.
"The Fokker 50 is the next challenge," Witsenboer says. "The Fokker 70 is a later challenge. We hope that we will have access to new technology by then."
Cityhopper is planning to replace the Fokker 50s with a 70- to 80-seat type, with both turboprops and jets in contention. By 2011 Cityhopper will select a replacement for its Fokker 70s, for completion by 2016, ahead of replacing its final five Fokker 100s - potentially using some of its nine Embraer 190 options.
Air France-KLM's joint long-haul order, for which the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 are candidates, could utimately comprise up to 90 aircraft.
The A350 and 787 are currently under evaluation to replace KLM's 17 280-seat Boeing 747 combis and its 10 294- to 300-seat MD-11s.
"The decision will be around 2010, maybe earlier, but probably no later," says Witsenboer. "We are working on this together [with Air France]. It is likely to be a joint order.
"It could be between 70 and 90 in total, depending on the amount of growth which we plan for," he concludes. "We operate a big enough fleet to have 787s and/or A350s."