Today, Airbus is celebrating its 50th anniversary. This is an ideal opportunity to look back at the uninterrupted collaboration between Air France and the aircraft manufacturer over the past 45 years.
Until the 1960s, the commercial aviation industry in Europe had about fifteen manufacturers, with insufficient capacity to compete with the American giants Douglas, Boeing and Lockheed. The idea came about that only a European cooperation would make it possible to create a manufacturer powerful enough to produce the future "air buses". Launched in 1966, the project took shape on May 29, 1969 with the signing of a Franco-German agreement for the production of a twin-engine aircraft, the A300 B. The first jumbo jet made in Europe.
The Toulouse-based aircraft manufacturer - named Airbus Industrie in 1970 - began slowly. Only Air France ordered Airbus: six A300 B2s (with 270 seats), delivered in 1974 and 1975.
On May 23, 1974, the Airbus A300 made its first commercial flight from Paris-Charles de Gaulle to London with the Air France livery.
Since then, Airbus and Air France have always enjoyed a close collaboration. The company operated 28 A300s and then 12 A310s, its successor. In 1988, it was the launch airline for the A320, which - in its various different versions (A318, A319, A320 and A321) – became the best-selling aircraft in history, after the Boeing B737. In 2009, it was also the first European airline to commission an A380, the European superjumbo.
In total, Air France has so far ordered more than 310 aircraft from Airbus, which has since become an industry giant.
By the late 1970s, the aircraft manufacturer had captured 10% of the market. With more than 50% of the market today, it is competing for leadership with Boeing.