Back in 1986, Airbus announced the Airbus A340 as a four-engine aircraft capable of crossing oceans to rival the popular Boeing 747-100. It would go on to serve as Airbus’ biggest commercial plane until the birth of the A380 in the early 2000s. Now, it’s facing its own replacement: the A350-1000
Which aircraft is better? The original 747 rival, or the new and improved long-haul saloon? Let’s explore and see how they stand up against each other.
What are their specifications?
We can begin by breaking down the specifications of each aircraft.
- Airbus A340-600: 326-380 passengers to a range of 7,550 nmi (13,980 km)
- Airbus A350-1000: 387 passengers to a range of 8,400 nmi (15,600 km)
The Airbus A340-600 can carry up to 380 passengers in three classes or cram 440 passengers in a maximum configuration. The A350-1000 can carry 387 passengers in two classes or a maximum of 440. As a three-class configuration actually takes up more room than a two-class configuration, we should take this passenger load number comparison with a grain of salt.
As the A340-600 is 75.36 m (247.24 ft) long and the Airbus A350-1000 73.79 m (242.1 ft) long, we could hypothesize that if the A340-600 had been configured for only two classes, it would have carried more passengers.
What about range?
As for the range of these two aircraft, the Airbus A350-1000 can fly an extra 900 nmi thanks to advancements in engine technology. And it’s quite an advancement; if we look at fuel capacity, the A340 carries a large 342,905 lb amount of fuel, whilst the A350 only carries 274,808 lb.
This leads us into fuel efficiency. Naturally, with the composite construction and advancements in engineering technology, the A350 is far more efficient and cheaper to run for airlines. This is particularly obvious when it comes to the aircraft’s OEW (Operating Empty Weight), the weight of the aircraft with all its furnishings and fit-out, but without fuel, cargo or passengers. The A340 comes in at a light 174t (384,000 lb), whilst the A350 is even lighter at 129t (284,000 lb). The lighter A350 can carry less fuel in its tank but fly further.
The A350 is the product of another 35 years of development and it shows.
Which is better?
It’s quite difficult to compare an aircraft made in the 1980s to one made in the 2010s. For one, the amount of new technology in the A350 series makes any aircraft built before completely obsolete.
But that improved technology comes at a big cost, to the tune of $60 million USD.
- Purchase cost of the A340-600: $306.7 million USD
- Purchase cost of the A350-1000: US$366.5 million USD
Whether or not that expense breaks even over the lifetime of the A350 remains to be seen. At any rate, the A350 has become far more popular than the A340, with double the amount of orders (despite only just beginning production) at 180.
The A340 was so unpopular that Emirates, who was to be the launch customer of the aircraft, cancelled its delivery at the last minute. Likewise, rival Qatar only took ownership of four of its A340 aircraft before letting their remaining options expire… only to turn around and buy the 777-300ER.
What do you think? Which aircraft is best? Let us know in the comments.