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Air France sees 787s as 'leverage' in A330/777 replacement talks

Air France's Boeing 787s could be phased out of its fleet but in the meantime provide "good leverage" in negotiations about the replacement of early-generation 777s and Airbus A330-200s, Air France-KLM chief Ben Smith has indicated.

"Right now, we are assuming they [the 787s] stay in the Air France fleet," Smith said during a webcasted investor briefing on 5 November, but he noted that the airline's relatively small fleet of 10 787-9s – nine in service, one still on order – gives it "a lot of flexibility", and added: "We can look at moving those aircraft to KLM in future."

In June, the group disclosed that Air France would take seven A350-900s previously on order for KLM, which in turn would take six 787s that had been scheduled for delivery to its French sibling.

Air France received its first A350-900 in September and has a further 26 on order, including the seven destined for KLM.

Smith says Air France's A350s will "balance out" its A330-200s depending on the "market environment". The A330-200s will be phased out "when it makes sense", he says.

Crucially, Air France's future widebody fleet can be operated by just two rather than currently four pilot divisions with the airline, notes Smith. The A350 and A330 have a common type rating.

KLM operates its 787s and 777s with a common type rating. This is not the case within Air France's operation, today, but may be an option in future, Smith says.

Air France's long-haul fleet additionally includes four A340-300s and 10 A380s, which will be retired by 2021 and 2022, respectively.

In the short-haul arena, Air France has decided to phase out its ATR 72 turboprops and Embraer ERJ-145s, and to concentrate its regional operations on E-Jets and Bombardier CRJs. The fleet includes CRJ700s, CRJ1000s, E170s and E190s. Smith says, however, that the carrier is evaluating the future of its CRJ700s and E170s.

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