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Air France-KLM to Split Widebody Order Between Airbus, Boeing

Air France-KLM CEO Pierre-Henri Gourgeon
Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, chief executive officer for Air France-KLM Group. Photographer: Antoine Antoniol/Bloomberg

Air France-KLM Group, Europe’s biggest airline, plans to split an order for about 100 widebody planes between Airbus SAS and Boeing Co., Chief Executive Officer Pierre Henri Gourgeon told French politicians.

Gourgeon declared his intention to divide the contract yesterday in a closed-door hearing at the French national assembly’s commission for sustainable development. Paris-based Air France-KLM confirmed the testimony today.

The CEO’s remarks, reiterating similar comments made in public, came after more than 180 of 577 French deputies signed a petition pressing him to favor Airbus, a Toulouse, France-based unit of European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. that’s 15 percent French owned with a largely French and German workforce,

“Gourgeon’s comments yesterday were similar to what he has said all along,” Air France spokeswoman Brigitte Barrand said today. “He’s said many times the order would probably be split.”

Air France operates Airbus A320-series aircraft on routes within France and to some European countries, while for long-haul flights it’s more heavily reliant on Boeing than Airbus, with 55 Boeing 777s, according to figures on its website.

Boeing’s newest plane for long-distance trips is the 787, or Dreamliner, which is scheduled to begin commercial flights soon with Japan’s All Nippon Airways Co.

Airbus’s A350, offered as a competitor to the 787 and 16-year-old 777, is set to begin commercial services in late 2013.

Air France wouldn’t be the first carrier to purchase both planes, since large airlines with big fleets frequently order competing models to keep competition keen. Singapore Airlines Ltd. is among those to order 787s and A350s.

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