What Happened To Emirates’ Airbus A340s?

Emirates retired their last A340 in 2016. It was the end of an era for the popular quad jet, of which Emirates had 18 over a 13-year timeframe. But what happened to all those A340s, and where are they now?

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Emirates received its first Airbus A340-500 in October 2003. Photo: Airbus

Between late 2003 and late 2016, Emirates flew eight leased A340-300s and ten A340-500s. In October 2003, when the first A340-500 touched down in Dubai, Emirates became the first airline to operate the ultra-long-range aircraft.

“Our A340-500s will be able to easily fly from Dubai to New Zealand or the US West Coast,” says Emirates Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum at the time. “Quite simply, they will help to make Dubai the new 21st Century world airline hub.”

Emirates was then the largest customer globally for the Airbus A330/A340 family, having ordered 54 aircraft that include A330-200s, A340-500s. and A340-600s. Of course, things didn’t turn out exactly as predicted in 2003 for Emirates. These days they fly either A380s or Boeing 777s. So what happened to those Emirates A340s?

A340 arrivals and departures at Emirates

The first A340 to join Emirates’ fleet arrived in October 2003. A6-ERB was a fresh new A340-500, direct from Toulouse, powered by four Rolls-Royce Trent 500s. Following this, a further three A340-500s joined the fleet by the end of 2003.

From January 2004, the A340-300s began to arrive. Over the course of 2004, eight A340-300s and a further four A340-500s arrived at Emirates. The final two, A6-ERI and A6-ERJ, both Airbus A340-500s, arrived in August and September of 2005, respectively. This completed the fleet of 18 A340s that Emirates would operate.

Between November 2014 and March 2015, the four A340-500s that arrived in 2003 were withdrawn from Emirates’ service. They went to Toulouse to become the property of Airbus Financial Services. Three of the four have remained there ever since.

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One of Emirates Airbus A340-500s. Photo: Airbus

In 2018, one of those four A340s, A6-ERD, was ferried to Johannesburg and a new owner, Global Aviation Operations. Global is a South African lease company, who provide wet, damp, and dry leasing to worldwide operators. The Airbus was re-registered as 2-RLBC. The plane is still with Global, but a search of airline databases does not reveal any recent activity.

In 2004, 12 Airbus A340s were delivered to Emirates. That’s a pretty hectic delivery schedule, but Emirates always thinks big. Eight of those 12 A340s delivered in 2004 were leased A340-300s. Nine years later, in 2013, four of those eight A340-300s were returned to the lessor. The planes were A6-ERQ, A6-ERS, A6-ERR, and A6-ERT.

Old Emirates A340s get scrapped, stored, or sometimes put into service elsewhere

An Airbus A340-500 also left the Emirates fleet in 2013. A6-ERF was scrapped in 2014 at Ras Al Khaimah International Airport.

The remaining four leased A340-300s stayed with Emirates until 2016. Then they too went back to the lessors. These four planes are now with Hi Fly Malta.

That leaves ten A340s unaccounted for. Some of those ten planes have since been scrapped. A6-ERA was bought by Universal Asset Management in 2019 but broken up in Tarbes Lourdes this year. A6-ERB, A6-ERC, and A6-ERE all were broken up in 2018.

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The final Emirates A340 flight was in 2016, from Kabul to Dubai. Photo: Airbus

A6-ERG is in storage at Tarbes Lourdes. That’s the aircraft that suffered a severe tailstrike on take-off in Melbourne in 2009 due to incorrectly calculated take-off weight. It was out of service for seven months.

Like A6-ERD, A6-ERH and A6-ERD have gone to Global Aviation Operations in South Africa. A6-ERI and A6-ERJ are reportedly in storage in Teruel.

Emirates’ final A340 flight was operated by A6-ERE in 2016, flying from Kabul to Dubai. Shortly after this, Emirates phased out its last Airbus A330, becoming the first airline to operate only Boeing 777s and Airbus A380s.

Out of a modest fleet of 18 A340s, Emirates now has none. The airline has come along way since 2003. The A340 was part of the story but never became the Emirates story. That headline act probably belongs to the A380.

Do you miss Emirates’ A340s? Tell us in the comments!

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