Long before the COVID-19 global pandemic wreaked its havoc on the airline industry, the days of the Airbus A340 gracing the world’s skies were already in decline. With this in mind, we thought we would take a look and see which airlines were still operating the slender four-engine jet and where you could fly on it in a post COVID world.
After having debuted in 1993, the Airbus A340 was for many years the European planemaker’s largest aircraft. Assembled at the Airbus production facility in Toulouse France, the A340 was capable of carrying 340 passengers in its standard layout. As for the more significant 600 variants, it could transport as many as 440 passengers in comfort.
The Airbus A340-500 had a long-range
Depending upon which model airlines chose, the Airbus A340 had a range of between 6,700 and 9,000 nautical miles making it an ideal choice for long-haul transoceanic flights. At one point, an A340-500 held the record for having the most extended range of any commercial aircraft until it lost its top place on the podium to a Boeing 777-200LR.
Production of the Airbus A340 stopped in 2011 when Airbus realized that the A340 could no longer compete with Boeing’s 777 and 787 Dreamliner. Not to be left behind, Airbus built the A330, A350, and now the A330neo for its long-haul offerings.
Airlines prefer twin-engine aircraft
Air France and Lufthansa were the first two airlines to place orders for the A340, but sadly Air France now only has one A340 that is parked due to the coronavirus and will most likely not return to service. Meanwhile, Lufthansa still has five Airbus A340-300s in service, but it is hard to say for how long as the plane is no longer fuel-efficient when compared to modern twin-engine planes.
Spanish national flag carrier Iberia is retiring its A340s as has Portuguese national flag carrier TAP Air Portugal, which has replaced the thirsty aircraft with new Airbus A330neos. Yesterday, British Airways announced the early retirement of all its iconic Boeing 747s, which points to the fact that any grounded Airbus A340 aircraft may now never return due to the downturn in air travel.
South African Airways relied on its two A340s for long-haul flights, but it is hard to see what will happen to these aircraft now that a new South African Airways returns from its receivership. The talk is of a more regional centric airline that would not need long-haul planes.
Who is still flying the Airbus A340
Earlier this year before the coronavirus crisis hit Swiss had just completed an extensive refit of its four A340-300s with the intension of deploying them on the following routes From Zurich:
- Zurich to Osaka
Iranian privately owned Mahan Air operates a fleet of 12 Airbus A340-300s and A340-600s that it is likely to fly for years to come. This is due to American sanctions against Iran that prevents Mahan Air from buying new aircraft.
Currently, A340 routes have been chopped and changed, but post COVID-19, you can expect to see Mahan Air A340 flights between Tehran and China and Tehran and Thailand. Currently, Mahan Air is banned from flying to Europe.
Post-COVID-19 Air Madagascar is expected to resume flying its two Airbus A340 aircraft on the following routes from Antananarivo:
Azerbaijan Airlines is one of the last airlines still flying the A340 serving the following destinations from Baku:
- Baku to Bodrum (seasonal)
Edelweiss Air is a Swiss leisure airline operating out of Zurich that has four A340-300s. According to Planespotters.net, at least two of these have been in storage. Nonetheless, there has been recent activity this week with two of the jets to the likes of Ibiza.
Of the 377 A340s delivered to airlines in over 20 years of production, there has never been a fatality attributed to the plane.
What do you think about the A340? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.