Air France delays jet tender, says Boeing, Airbus aren’t ready


Air France-KLM Group, Europe’s biggest airline, postponed plans to ask Airbus SAS and Boeing Co. to submit tenders for 100 long-range aircraft because the airline doesn’t believe either manufacturer is ready.

“Boeing’s 787 hasn’t even flown yet, and Airbus hasn’t been firm about when they’ll have a design freeze on the A350,” Air France Chief Financial Officer Philippe Calavia said in an interview today after the company released earnings.

Air France first said in November 2007 that it was planning to initiate a tender for planes worth roughly $20 billion at list price. Calavia has said the airline would examine both the A350 XWB and the 787, known as the Dreamliner.

The first test flight for the Boeing jet was originally set for September 2007, with first delivery in May 2008. The Chicago- based company still hasn’t flown the plane and the first flight was pushed back an unspecified amount of time following a machinists strike, Boeing said on Nov. 14.

Airbus has been offering a model that will see its first deliveries in 2013. Airbus had been saying the so-called design freeze would come by yearend, meaning it would know by December exactly what the plane’s specifications will be. Calavia said this hasn’t happened and it’s not clear exactly when that will happen.

Air France originally planned for bidding to start in 2008 with the contract awarded by 2009.

The carrier’s Amsterdam-based KLM unit will be first to need the new wide-body planes, around 2012 or 2013, to replace its older models, followed later by Air France, Calavia said in 2007.

First European Airline

Air France still doesn’t know when Airbus will deliver the first of 12 A380 jets ordered by the airline. The company, which was to be the first European airline flying the double-decker superjumbo, had been expecting to get the plane in late August or early September, though now hopes to get the plane by October in 2009.

“We’re still waiting for word from Airbus,” Air France Chief Operating Officer Pierre-Henri Gourgeon said at the briefing today. The planemaker, based in Toulouse, probably won’t deliver all 21 A380s that it had promised for 2009 EADS Chief Executive Officer Louis Gallois said last week.