Air France may not bother to upgrade its outdated premium cabins seats on the A380. The exorbitant price tag is difficult to justify. But that creates a serious problem for the carrier’s five-year plan and may lead to an accelerated retirement timeline.
Speaking to Air Transport World at the recent Paris Air Forum, Air France/KLM CEO Ben Smith noted that three A380s are already slated for removal from service by 2021 and Air France may choose not to upgrade the remaining aircraft.
The other seven have older seats and we’re in the middle of making the decision on how long those A380s will be staying in the Air France fleet and whether we should invest €30-€40 million ($33.8-$45.1 million) per aircraft in upgrading those seats.
Last November, Air France announced plans to return five leased A380s and retrofit the five it owns. Even then, the high price tag for retrofitting these aircraft invited a critical cost/benefit analysis as to the wisdom of this move. But at the time, the decision appeared final.
The Business Class Problem
And while it may not make sense to upgrade the A380s considering the hefty price tag, failing to do so would be contrary to Smith’s larger vision for the airline.
At the same Paris forum, Air France-KLM Executive Vice President – Strategy Angus Clarke outlined four pillars of Smith’s plan to turn around Air France:
- Simplicity around the fleet
- Efficiency of aircraft layouts
- Consistency of product
- Employee engagement and balance sheet strength
Those are laudable goals, but makes leaving the A380 alone quite problematic. The seat on the A380 isn’t even a true lie-flat seat. Is is woefully uncompetitive with most of the competition and is in desperate need of a refresh.
Thus, Air France will need to retrofit this plane or retire it early…the status quo is directly contrary to Smith’s vision for Air France.
Speaking as a consumer who loves the A380, I certainly hope Air France will retrofit at least five aircraft and keep them in the air. But with the high retrofit price tag and Air France’s plan for consistent product and fleet simplicity, I would not blame Air France for simply retiring the fleet earlier than planned.
> Read More: Air France A380 Decision Is Sad, But Smart
image: Air France