MIAMI – Air France (AF) is one of the world’s largest Boeing 777 operators. The type has been the backbone of AF’s long-haul operations. The airline used the aircraft type mostly on destinations across Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
However, the Boeing 777 fleet is aging, especially the 777-200ERs. The first aircraft of this type delivered to AF back in 1998 and by now the Boeing 777-200ER fleet has an average age of 14.2 years. As a result, the French flag carrier announced the retirement of the type in the next three (3) months.
The first triple seven, out of a total of four (4) Boeing 777-200ERs to be retired, made its final flight yesterday morning, heading for Tarbes Airport (LDE). However, the retirement was expected, as the airline has grounded fifteen (15) out of its twenty-five (25) B777-200ERs for more than a year.
The Boeing 777-200ER retirement follows the company’s strategy to phase out a large number of unprofitable widebody aircraft such as Airbus A330’s, Airbus A380’s, and Airbus A340’s. The former quad jet aircraft were the first to be removed from AF’s fleet after the strong hit of the global CoviD-19 pandemic as well as several travel restrictions.
The Successor of Boeing 777-200ER
There have been several scenarios, regarding the type of aircraft, which the airline will rely on its future long-haul operations. In 2019, the Air France–KLM Group announced a swap of Boeing and Airbus orders for the French and the Dutch flag carrier.
The swap included the six (6) remained Boeing 787s which ordered for Air France (AF) to be transferred to KLM (KL), and the seven (7) Airbus A350-900s on order for KL would be transferred to AF. This decision revealed AF’s vision to establish the Airbus A350 as its main future long-haul equipment.
Currently, AF has placed an order of twenty-eight (28) Airbus A350-900 to the European manufacturer, including the former six (6). At the same time, the airline took delivery of six (6) Airbus A350s. For the moment, the airline has chosen the A350-900 as a great replacement option for the retired Boeing 777-200ERs due to its efficiency on fuel consumption, capacity as well as range.
However, there are some other options for the airline to consider for its new long-haul fleet plan. The Boeing 777X could be a possibility for the airline, but AF could also obtain the Airbus A350-1000, which shares a great commonality with the A350-900.
Featured image: Air France G-FSPY Boeing 777-228(ER). Photo: Max Langley/Airways