All Gone: There Are No More Airline Airbus A340-500 Flights

While there are still some government and VIP A340-500s, there are no more scheduled A340-500 flights anywhere in the world. The type was last used by Azerbaijan Airlines on just one route earlier this year: from Baku to Moscow Domodedovo. The A340 variant has never been popular and has mainly had a niche role. It is now extinct in airline use – but will it ever return?

AZAL A340-500
This aircraft, AK-AZ86, is in storage along with sister AK-AZ85. Photo: Dmitry Terekhov via Flickr.

Azerbaijan Airlines’ last A340-500 route

The last commercial operator to use the A350-500 on a scheduled basis was Azerbaijan Airlines. It used 4K-AZ85, which was the world’s only active example, on a limited basis from Baku to Domodedovo. According to ch-aviation.com and Flightradar24, this aircraft is now in storage, joining the carrier’s other A340-500, 4K-AZ86.

AZAL A340-500
There are no more A340-500 flights are scheduled anywhere. Photo: Aktug Ates via Flickr.

The A340-500 was a niche aircraft

The A340-500 entered service 18 years ago, in 2003. The purpose was clear: to have the longest flight envelope of any widebody commercial aircraft. Its four engines were key: they meant it was exempt from restrictive extended-range twin-engine operational performance standards (ETOPS) legislation.

This theoretically meant one thing: brand-new ultra-long-haul (ULH) routes could be operated non-stop. Singapore Airlines led the way, with ULH services between Singapore and Los Angeles and Singapore to Newark in 2004.

Singapore A340-500
Singapore Airlines used this specific aircraft (9V-SGB) from 2004 to 2013. Interestingly, the same registration is now used on one of the carrier’s A350s. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr.

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Singapore to Newark

When Newark started, the 8,285 nautical mile link was the world’s longest route. Now, Singapore Airlines presently serves JFK non-stop from its home country – which has a slightly longer distance. It uses 161-seat A350-900URLs, with 67 business seats and 94 in premium economy.

Singapore to Newark is expected to resume in January. And when it does, the route – with a block time of about 18.5 hours to Singapore – will temporarily coexist with its non-stop to JFK. However, it is expected to revert to Newark-only from about the start of summer 2022.

SQ23
When writing, SQ23 is over Russia, having left JFK nearly 9.5 hours ago. Over eight hours remain. It is, of course, now operated by the A350. Image: Flightradar24.cm.

There’s no mistaking it. The A340-500 has never been a popular aircraft. This is because of its very niche role, which meant the actual market for the type was minimal. ULH is exceptionally hard to work in the best times with low fuel prices and a strong economy, let alone with gas-guzzling four-engine aircraft whose performance was in serious doubt.

Then came a more cost-efficient and ULH twin – the B777-200LR. This aircraft, still in use globally, including with Emirates, effectively ended the A340-500 program for commercial airlines. Consequently, the type’s already niche role became even more niche.

Air Canada A340-500
Air Canada used the -500 between 2004 and 2007. It had only two of the aircraft. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr.

Limited airlines used it

Between 2004 and 2021, fewer than 30 million seats by the A340-500 were available for sale, according to data experts Cirium. Emirates was primarily responsible for using the type with six in ten seats, followed by Etihad, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, and Nigeria’s Arik Air. These five had 96% of all A340-500 seats.

Use of the A340-500
Singapore Airlines withdrew the variant in 2013, Arik Air in 2014, Emirates in 2016, and Etihad in 2017. Source: Cirium.

Various airlines used the A340-500 on a short-term and wet lease basis from aircraft, crew, maintenance, and insurance (ACMI) provider HiFly. These include Norwegian, SAS, Tunisair, TAP Air Portugal, El Al, and Finnair. Finnair used it from Helsinki to New York JFK, while Norwegian deployed it on various routes, including Barcelona to Newark and Oakland.

The author has good memories of flying an Etihad A340-500 to/from Bangkok. What are your memories or experiences of flying the -500? Let us know in the comments.

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