Proposed Air France-KLM- Airbus A350 maintenance JV could ease pain for African operators
A proposed partnership between Air France Industries KLM Engineering & Maintenance and Airbus to establish a joint venture to provide worldwide support for the A350, will not only ease access to technical support for African operators of the type, but could potentially increase its appeal and practicality within the continent.
Air France and Airbus revealed September 4, that they started negotiations to establish a joint venture for the provision on a worldwide basis of Airbus A350 component maintenance services’ covering supply chain management, repairs, creation of a worldwide pool of aircraft components.
In a media release, the duo say stock in the envisaged cooperation would be split 50-50 between Air France and Airbus and involve the transfer of aircraft components assets belonging to both partners into the joint venture’s pool.
“This joint venture, combining the expertise of Air France Industries KLM Engineering & Maintenance and Airbus, would entail an optimized commercial offering, aimed at better meeting the growing long-term maintenance needs of the Airbus A350 worldwide fleet, through enhanced capacity, an expanded global footprint, and the development of innovative solutions to the benefit of the customers.”
Airbus had at the end of July, racked up more than 1000 orders for the A350, across the type’s passenger and freighter variants. Meanwhile the in-service fleet has crossed the 550 milestone, with the older examples approaching the age when they will drive demand for component replacement.
“We’re in the business of offering the very best service to our customers, and as the world’s A350 fleet grows, so does the necessary support. Air France-KLM Engineering & Maintenance and Airbus have a long-standing relationship and pooling our complementary A350 component skills and capabilities will deliver an enhanced service,” said Cristina Aguilar, Senior Vice President Customer Services at Airbus.
The partners aim to have the joint venture operational by the first half of 2024 to securing regulatory approval by all relevant authorities.
Africa has only handful of A350 operators led by Ethiopian whose A350 fleet will peak at 24 units by 2025, leads the pack. Libyan flag carrier has an outstanding order for 10 while Libyan Arab Airlines also 6. But Only Ethiopian and Air Mauritius which has four A350-900s in its inventory operate the type. Air Mauritius which operates four A350’s announced a repeat order for 3 units during this edition of the Paris Airshow. South African Airways which operated the type via leases for units, says it intends to bring the A350 back into its fleet when it restores its long-haul network.
Of all these operators, only Ethiopian has a capability for A350 heavy maintenance. Airbus-Air France’s JV will expand options for operators, especially in terms of sourcing components during line maintenance, reducing the need to tie-up capital inexpensive inventory.
In the longer-term, a shorter and more efficient parts procurement cycle, could support prove appealing to both existing and prospective customers for the type in Africa.
Anne Brachet, Executive Vice President Air France-KLM Engineering & Maintenance, says “This project aims to bring customers the best expertise of our two companies on a product as high-tech as the A350. We will be able to better respond to the needs of the market, and to guarantee the satisfaction of our customers over the long term, with support solutions that are always responsive, of high quality and at the right price.”