ISTANBUL, TURKEY —Air France-KLM eyes fleet overhaul with fuel-efficient models amid surging long-haul demand.

Air France-KLM is in the process of upgrading its aging widebody fleet, favoring more fuel-efficient models from aerospace giants Airbus SE and Boeing Co., in a bid to cater to the burgeoning demand for long-haul travel.

Airbus A330s and a collection of Boeing 777s, both with an average age of 20 years, are slated for replacement, according to Chief Executive Officer Ben Smith, speaking at the IATA annual general meeting in Istanbul. As part of its ongoing fleet modernization, the carrier has phased out its Boeing 747s and A380s, supplementing with state-of-the-art 787 Dreamliners and Airbus's A350 planes.

In addition to efficiency considerations, the carrier is also factoring in the need to avoid Russian airspace due to the recent invasion of Ukraine, a detour that can significantly extend flight times. Such changes necessitate different aircraft specifications, Smith added.

"An aircraft optimized for 15-hour flights differs from one suited for 12-hour flights; this additional factor will now play into our fleet evaluation, which would not have been the case 18 months ago," he explained.

Smith projected that fleet updates could commence in or post-2025, due to the lack of available slots before then, as airlines worldwide scramble to acquire widebody jets in the wake of long-haul travel's recovery, elongating wait times for newer, fuel-efficient models.

Smith also acknowledged Air France-KLM's ongoing interest in Portuguese airline TAP, citing its "strategic geographical position" and its strong connections with South America and Brazil. However, any decisions concerning TAP, which the Portuguese government is currently considering options for, will be approached "with utmost caution and without sentiment," Smith emphasized.

"It's a compelling prospect, given the right conditions," he added.