Up to Air France to decide on planes: Boeing
US aerospace giant Boeing said Sunday that it fully expects Air France-KLM to decide which long-haul plane it needs on commercial grounds alone, irrespective of any political pressure.
Jim Albaugh, head of Boeing's Commercial Aircraft operations, told a briefing that his company had been doing business with Air France-KLM for years and he expected them to choose their next plane in the same way as before.
"They are a business ... my expectation is that they will buy the right plane for the business," Albaugh said, when asked about reports that the French government, which holds a 15 percent stake in the airline, wanted it to choose Airbus, Boeing's great European rival.
"Political pressure is out there ... we try to learn from it," Albaugh said, while stressing the commercial imperatives for airlines.
On Tuesday, French Trade Secretary Pierre Lellouche, said he would meet the head of Air France-KLM as it prepared to make its next big long-haul order.
"The French state is a 15-percent stakeholder in Air France-KLM," Lellouche noted, adding that French jobs would benefit from a massive order of aircraft from the European planemaker, based in France.
French lawmakers launched a petition pressing the national carrier to prefer the big Airbus A350 to the Boeing 787 when it places its next order, expected to be for 100 such long-haul carriers worth tens of billions of dollars.
The company, formed by a merger of the French flag-carrier with KLM of the Netherlands, currently has 73 Boeing and 35 Airbus in its long-haul fleet, while all of its medium-haul craft are Airbus.
A source close to the matter who asked not to be named told AFP last week that the new order "will doubtless be a mixture of the two."
Earlier, Louis Gallois, head of Airbus parent company EADS, also said that it was up to the airline to decide which aircraft it bought.
"You can't forbid the good will of members parliament to express their wishes but clearly for EADS and Airbus, it's a market where airlines have to have the full choice."
Gallois added that since Airbus leads Boeing in global sales, "we don't have to change the rules of game."
© 2011 AFP