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Air France shows interest in A220 stretch

Air France-KLM chief executive Ben Smith has indicated that the group would be interested in a stretch version of the Airbus A220, as a means of invigorating its French-based short- and medium-haul network.

Speaking during a financial results briefing on 31 July, Smith said a recent deal covering up to 120 A220-300s – 60 orders, 30 options and 30 purchase rights – had given Air France "flexibility".

If Airbus were to develop a larger version of the A220, Air France would be interested in switching to such a variant, says Smith.

The A220 is available in the baseline -100 version, with capacity for 135 passengers, and as the -300, which can accommodate 160.

Bombardier developed the aircraft formerly known as the CSeries – before control of the programme was transferred to Airbus in 2018 – and studied potential larger versions of the twinjet.

The Canadian airframer's commercial aircraft president Fred Cromer told FlightGlobal in 2016 that the aircraft's existing wing would be capable of supporting a larger derivative.

In May, Airbus disclosed a maximum take-off weight increase – available as an option from 2020 – to boost range.

Smith describes the A220 as a "great tool" to restructure Air France's short- and medium-haul operations – especially the domestic network.

He says, however, that an effort to make Air France's domestic operations profitable will depend on a multitude of initiatives and on the airline's operating environment.

France's plans to introduce an environmental tax, development of high-speed train services in the country, and potential further taxes will all have effects on the flag carrier's turnaround effort, warns Smith.

Air France meanwhile needs to restructure its regional operation Hop, expand the network role of budget subsidiary Transavia, and optimise domestic shuttle flights from Paris Orly. Operations will generally need to be enhanced at the capital's second airport as, Smith notes, few slots are available.

He says Air France is in the process of a "big study" to overhaul its domestic operations.

"Making domestic France profitable is a huge effort, [but] is something that we must address," he says, adding: "But all these pieces are interlinked."

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