Iberia Has Retired Its Last Airbus A340

Iberia said goodbye to its last A340 last week, ending nearly 24 years of history with the type. The A340 has played a vital role in the Iberia fleet by connecting new long-haul destinations from Madrid. The retirement makes the A340 a rarer aircraft, with the pandemic forcing airlines to retire the four-engine model.

Iberia A340
Iberia’s last A340 departed the fleet on August 17th. Photo: Iberia

Long history

The final Iberia A340-600 was registered EC-JLE and joined the fleet in September of 2005, making it just under 15 years old. The plane was named after Nobel prize-winning Spanish neurologist Santiago Ramón y Cajal. Iberia had a total of 14 A340-600 in the fleet, serving destinations from London to Santiago.

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Iberia last A340-600
The A340 flew a final service from Quito to Madrid earlier this month. Photo: Curimedia via Wikimedia Commons

The first Iberia A340-300 joined the airline in 1996, replacing the aging 747-200 and expanding the airline’s fleet. The plane had already set records for the longest route in the world and allowed Iberia to expand to new destinations in South America and Asia. The A340-600 joined the fleet 2003, offering more passenger capacity.

The A340 is a significant part of Iberia’s fleet and was the airline’s only long-haul aircraft until just two years ago. The plane was the go-to for any long-haul or high capacity market for well over two decades. The entry of the A350 in 2018 did signal the end of the A340, but the timeline was set to be gradual.

A casualty of the times

Iberia’s A340 was by no means an old fleet of aircraft. While the oldest one was 17 years old, the youngest one was just over ten years old. Many aircraft stay far beyond 20 years and continue to operate with no issues. The exit of the fleet will have a substantial financial impact on Iberia too.

Iberia A340
Some of Iberia’s A340-600s are just over a decade old. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikipedia

The airline’s original plan was to slowly phase out the A340, going from 14 to 10 this year, five by 2022, and all planes retired by 2025. However, the pandemic has forced Iberia to retire the fleet immediately. The A340 is a casualty of the era, with its higher capacity and fuel consumption no longer justifiable in these tough financial times.

Smaller fleet

IAG, the parent of Iberia, British Airways, Aer Lingus and more, is currently in the process of reducing fleets across its airlines. British Airways also recently started retiring its iconic 747 fleet as a part of the airline’s downsizing. For Iberia, this will mean a smaller long-haul fleet for the coming years, especially as it looks to defer orders for the A350.

Iberia Airbus A350-941
With the A340 gone and A350 orders deferred, Iberia will have a smaller long-haul footprint for now. Photo: Adam Moreira via Wikimedia Commons

With the airline industry not expected to reach 2019 highs until at least 2023-24, IAG is betting that Iberia can fulfill its destinations using the A330s and A350s for the next few years. For now, the A330 can take over some of the A340s shorter routes while A350 does the same for long-haul ones. However, this will limit growth in the coming years in case we see demand rise once again.

What do you think about Iberia’s decision to retire the A340? Let us know in the comments!

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