Buried in last week’s press release about Air France finalising its order for 25 A350-900s was a juicy statement of intent from the airline’s maintenance arm, Air France Industries KLM Engineering & Maintenance (AFI KLM E&M).
The aircraft order itself had been awaiting confirmation for almost two years, the key sticking point being the A350’s Trent XWB engines.
Almost every Trent engine that has ever been sold, from the A340’s Trent 500 to the newest Trent 1000 and XWB models, has been tied to a ‘TotalCare’ aftermarket support contract overseen by the manufacturer, Rolls-Royce.
The basic feature of these deals, variants of which are offered by other engine OEMs, is that an operator outsources much of its aftermarket needs to the engine manufacturer for a rate determined by the hours the engine flies.
However, AFI KLM E&M wanted to have the freedom to perform the maintenance itself and to offer third parties its services on the Trent, a wish that has caused almost two years of wrangling with Rolls-Royce.
Even now, the two parties have only signed a memorandum of understanding for the engines, although this does include a provision for AFI KLM E&M to perform Trent maintenance. “The [Air France] Group’s aircraft maintenance division intends to be on the market for the maintenance of these engines,” Air France insisted in its A350 order announcement.
Although it is still possible that Air France will sign some form of 'TotalCare' deal, some have suggested that its truculence will inspire other large airline maintenance arms in future engine deals; others have commented that the drawn-out negotiations will prove to be an isolated spat.
For a deeper examination of the pros and cons of 'TotalCare' deals, as well as further comment from airlines on their experience with such contracts, see the upcoming June-July issue of Aircraft Technology Engineering & Maintenance, out soon.