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By Vittorio Hernandez
The Air France-KLM Group board approved the purchase of 50 new commercial jets to replace older planes.
The board opted to please both major plane manufacturers by splitting the orders: half to Boeing and half to Airbus. While the air carrier's decision is far from being solomonic, it would spare the airline from being caught in the middle between the two largest plane manufacturers similar to what happened to the U.S. military.
The airline would order 25 Airbus' SAS A350s and 25 of Boeing's 787s with a total value of $12 billion at list prices. Air France-KLM expects the first batch of the wide-body aircraft to be delivered in 2016 to KLM.
The carrier has the option to order 60 more planes. It expects to take delivery of about 23 by 2024.
The new planes would add to the Air France-KLM fleet of 121 Airbus and 48 Boeing jets, however it would need to retire some of the aging ones.
The U.S. military chose between Airbus and Boeing in 2008 for a $40-billion contract. When Pentagon opted for Airbus over Boeing, the latter sought an explanation from Washington.
U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Commander Gen. Arthur Lichte defended its preference for Airbus because of the design offered by the European aircraft maker in terms of more passengers, cargo and fuel to offload.
The competition between Airbus and Boeing has been heated since they emerged in the 1990s as the two largest aircraft manufacturers. Both have accused each other of receiving unfair state subsides, which led to a World Trade Organization suit in what is considered the world's largest trade dispute.
While the WTO ruled that Boeing subsidies broke WTO rules and ordered it withdrawn, the organization partly overturned a previous ruling of the European Union that the Airbus subsidies were unfair. Boeing and Airbus claimed victory with the WTO decision.
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Travel | Air France - KLM Orders 50 New Planes from Airbus and Boeing