Air France’s Airbus A340s Are Becoming A Rare Sight

Air France’s Airbus A340s are becoming a rare sight. Today the French flag carrier has retired another of its four-engined single deck aircraft. This leaves just three of the quad-jets in the airline’s fleet – largely based in Paris.

Air France, Airbus A340, Retirement
Air France’s A340s are becoming a rare sight as yet another was retired today. Photo: Air France

Following years in service, Air France has been retiring the Airbus A340 in its fleet. Now, only three of the type remain active with the French flag carrier. Air France, an early customer of the A340-300, has just retired another of the four-engined aircraft. However, with the current situation affecting the aviation industry, is it possible that they could be retired early?

Air France and A340 retirement

Since being the launch customer for the Airbus A340 back in 1993, Air France has continuously operated the aircraft type. According to Planespotters, the airline has operated a total of 30 A340-300s. However, only three remain as another was flown to retirement today.

Remaining in its Joon livery, F-GZLO was flown from the French flag carrier’s Paris hub to Tarbes in the south of France today. The aircraft departed at 10:36 this morning, on what was undoubtedly its final journey. Recently the first two Airbus A380s were also dismantled in Tarbes following retirement, despite both being much younger than this A340.

According to CH-Aviation, Air France had intended to retire its four remaining Airbus A340s in Q1 of 2021. However, many European airlines are now expecting the current crisis to last at least until then. With this in mind, it’s entirely possible that, just like the Air France Airbus A380, the airline’s A340s may never fly again.

About the A340

The A340 is a wide-bodied four-engine aircraft with a single passenger deck. The aircraft first flew in 1991, 27 years ago. Following testing, the aircraft type entered service with Lufthansa and Air France one and a half years later in March 1993. Lufthansa is in the process of sending its A340-600 aircraft to long-term storage.

There are four main variants of the A340. These include the A340-200, A340-300, A340-500, and A340-600. Ranging in size, these aircraft held a maximum of 375-440 passengers.

Virgin A340 bournemouth
Most of the world’s Airbus A340s are now parked up. Photo: Getty Images

The end of the A340 program was eventually brought about by competition from the Boeing 777. When the program was canceled in 2011, all firm orders of the aircraft had been delivered, unlike the Airbus A380 program. However, six years earlier, in 2005, 155 Boeing 777s were ordered, while there were only 15 orders for A340s.

Two is better than four

The main reason for the A340 falling out of service is its inefficiency. This is especially true as it is being replaced with more fuel-efficient aircraft. Back when the plane was envisioned, ETOPS was not in operation. This made the A340 popular for two reasons. In the event of an engine failure, the aircraft could continue on three engines. Additionally, without ETOPS regulations, the four-engined aircraft were favored for cross-ocean operations.

Airbus A380, Grounded, Zero Flights
Many A380s could also end up taking early retirement. Photo: Getty Images

With the advent of ETOPS, it became easier for dual engined aircraft to fly further from diversion airports. This was helped in part by increasing engine reliability. Now, the four-engined Airbus A340 is much less economical to use, compared to a two-engined aircraft on the same route.

Do you think the Airbus A340 will ever fly again for Air France? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!