What Happened To Air Canada’s Airbus A340s?

Canadian flag carrier Air Canada presently operates various Airbus designs, from the ex-Bombardier A220 to the twin-aisle A330. However, did you know that, previously, it has also flown the four-engine Airbus A340? A total of 15 of these aircraft graced the airline’s fleet between 1995 and 2008. Let’s explore their story further.

Air Canada Airbus A340
Air Canada used one of its A340s to showcase the liveries of five other fellow early Star Alliance members. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

A penchant for the A340-300

According to ch-aviation, 13 of the 15 A340s that Air Canada used to operate belonged to the type’s -300 variant. Of these, all but one arrived at the airline in the mid to late 1990s. C-FTNQ was the first A340-300 to join Air Canada, with the carrier taking delivery of it on June 15th, 1995. Meanwhile, C-GDVZ was the last 90s arrival (June 28th, 1999).

The final A340-300 to join Air Canada (C-FDRO)arrived second-hand on lease from ILFC in June 2005. After just over two years at the carrier, its lease ended, and it joined Aerolineas Argentinas before being broken up Goodyear, Arizona in 2014.

But what became of the A340-300s that joined Air Canada in the 1990s? For the most part, these aircraft served the airline for somewhat longer than the final 2005 arrival. They left the fleet between January 2002 and November 2008. Airlines that they flew for after Air Canada included AirAsia X, Air Jamaica, BWIA West Indies Airways, Iberia, and SWISS.

Air Canada Airbus A340
Apart from a short lease in 2013, Air Canada’s last A340s left its fleet in 2008. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

Two A340-500s

While the -300 variant dominated Air Canada’s A340 fleet, it also briefly flew a pair of larger A340-500s. These bore the registrations C-GKOM and C-GKOL, and arrived at the Canadian flag carrier in June and July of 2004 respectively. The airline configured the cabins of these aircraft with 42 business class seats, and a 225-seat economy class section.

Despite arriving brand-new at the airline, their spell at Air Canada only lasted just over three years. In October 2007, the pair of A340-500s left Air Canada within 18 days of each other. They went on to fly for Brazilian flag carrier TAM. C-GKOL was scrapped in Rio de Janeiro in 2015, while C-GKOM is in storage in Teruel registered as D-AAAL.

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Air Canada Airbus A340-500
One of Air Canada’s two A340-500s, which it operated from 2004 to 2007. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

The lost A340-600 order

In addition to the 15 A340s across two variants that flew for Air Canada, there was also a time when the airline was set to receive the stretched-fuselage A340-600. Soon after Airbus revealed its plans to develop this variant at the 1997 Paris Air Show, Air Canada placed an order for it amid considerable excitement. It ordered eight A330s and A340s at this time.

However, a combination of factors eventually led the Canadian flag carrier to cancel this order. Firstly, the industry-wide downturn that followed 2001’s 9/11 attacks made for a challenging financial climate, which prompted Air Canada to defer the order to 2004.

Airbus A340-600
Air Canada ultimately opted to cancel its A340-600 order. Photo: RAF-YYC via Wikimedia Commons

During this period, shifts in fleet strategy caused the airline to defer the order for a second time, pushing it back to 2010. It eventually canceled the order altogether, which now seems like a good call. After all, the comparatively inefficient A340 has fallen out of favor compared to modern twinjets like the Boeing 787, of which Air Canada operates 37 examples.

Did you ever fly on one of Air Canada’s Airbus A340s? If so, where did it take you, and how did you like the aircraft? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

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