Air France retired the last of its A340-300s in May 2020 as the grip of the pandemic took hold. The type, which had been in its fleet since 1993, was surplus to requirements, especially as costly major airframe and engine overall events were approaching. While the USA was the A340’s number-one country, Bogota was the top route.
Soon after the last of Air France’s A340s were retired, the carrier retired the A380, marking the end of four-engine aircraft in its fleet. (The 747 went in 2016.) Like many other carriers, including Lufthansa, Air France is to enter the ‘new world’ with a fleet of twins, which are lighter, smaller, and less expensive to operate.
Just 8% of Air France’s widebody capacity
Over the years, Air France has operated a total of 30 A340-300s and -200s. Since the millennium, however, some 23 were in service, according to ch-aviation.com’s database, some of which were used by its subsidiary, Joon.
Yet the Airbus quad was never a massive part of Air France’s widebody seat capacity. In the past decade, the 340 had just 8% of widebody seats, based on examining data from OAG. In contrast, the A330 had 15%. Despite this, Simple Flying showed that Air France was the world’s sixth-largest user of the A340 in the past decade.
Top-10 A340 destinations; USA #1 country
Air France (and Joon) used the A340 from Paris to some 73 destinations in the past decade, including a good number of one-offs and a selection for a limited time only. The 73 destinations were overwhelmingly from CDG, but also from Orly to Cayenne (between 2012 and 2016) and Denpasar-Bali (in 2014).
Francophone West and Central Africa saw the most A340 seats in the past decade, followed by North America and upper South America. Indeed, Bogota was the number-one destination for Air France’s A340s, as shown below. However, the USA was the leading country, with 10 airports seeing the type in the last 10 years.
- Bogota: 1.35 million two-way A340 seats
- St. Maarten: 1.28 million
- Detroit: 1.17 million
- Cayenne: 894,000
- Montreal: 819,000
- Bamako: 730,000
- Lome: 647,000
- Ouagadougou: 602,000
- Caracas: 557,000
- Mumbai: 421,000
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Air France is no different to other airlines
Large numbers of airlines have retired a huge amount of aircraft in the past year or so, typically speeding up a decision that was taken previously. The aircraft chosen were typically less fuel-efficient (with four engines and/or older) or those with small numbers in a fleet or those operating in a niche way. There are many examples, such as Delta and its ‘Mad Dogs’, a range of aircraft with American including the 757, and the B747-400 with British Airways.
While often sad, the rationale was logical. By removing them, they’ll achieve a leaner, meaner foundation for the future. This prioritization, right-sizing, and retreating to core will help airlines to merge from coronavirus stronger and more competitive.
Did you fly the A340 with Air France? Let us know in the comments.