Air France may defer some Airbus A380s

NEW YORK Mon Mar 2, 2009 4:24pm EST

Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, Chief Executive Officer of Air France-KLM, speaks at the Reuters Travel and Leisure Summit in New York March 2, 2009. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, Chief Executive Officer of Air France-KLM, speaks at the Reuters Travel and Leisure Summit in New York March 2, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA) is considering delaying deliveries of some of the dozen A380 jetliners it ordered from Airbus, on top of recent deferrals of Boeing (BA.N) planes, but so far is not planning to cancel any of its recent plane purchases, according to its chief executive.

Europe's largest airline, along with its rivals, is looking to cut back on capital spending and preserve cash, as the global economic downturn crushes demand for flights and access to financing evaporates.

"We moved 777 cargo and we moved 777 passenger," said Pierre-Henri Gourgeon at the Reuters Travel and Leisure Summit in New York, referring to Boeing orders. "We (may) move also late A380s, after the first six... that has an effect on down payment."

France's flag carrier has 12 of EADS' EAD.PA unit Airbus's massive A380 jets on order. It is planning on taking deliveries as scheduled over the next two years, including two scheduled for this year, but may shift plans for later deliveries.

"It's mainly from the six or seventh aircraft that we may move or adjust our schedule, which will create some saving on the down payment this year and the year after," said Gourgeon, who took over as CEO in January.

Air France also is planning to cut the number of planes it leases, said Gourgeon, which may affect the world's two major plane leasing companies, General Electric Co's (GE.N) GECAS unit, and American International Group Inc's (AIG.N) International Lease Finance Corp.

Air France has already deferred about half of the 20 or so Boeing 777 minijumbos it has on order.

"What we have done is move something like 10 (Boeing) aircraft by one or two years, such that we really decrease our fleet investment to what is needed or what we cannot avoid," said Gourgeon. "In Air France and KLM, we move orders so that we clean the path in investment and in cash-out for the next two years. It's more moving orders than canceling anything."

For the period up to March 2011, the airline has "significantly reduced" its planned capital expenditures, said Gourgeon.

(For summit blog: blogs.reuters.com/summits/)

(Reporting by Bill Rigby; editing by Carol Bishopric)

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