Plus Ultra Outlines Its Airbus A340 Retirement Plans

Spanish long-haul carrier Plus Ultra has set a deadline to retire its Airbus A340 fleet. The airline plans to phase out the three A340s by early 2023 and replace them with more efficient jets for long journeys. Let’s find out more.

Plus Ultra A340-300
Plus Ultra is one of the newest operators of the A340, having first taken delivery of the jets in 2017. Photo: Pedro Aragão via Wikimedia Commons


According to ch-aviation, Plus Ultra is eying an early 2023 exit for its fleet of three A340s. The airline currently operates two A340-300s, EC-MQM (21 years old) and EC-NBU (20 years old), and one A340-600 leased from European Aviation, EC-NFQ (12 years old), according to

However, just four years after picking up its first A340, Plus Ultra is looking to move on from the four-engined giant. Considering the airline’s focus on long-haul routes into South America, it has flexibility in the current market.

Plus Ultra A340-300s
The A340 has fallen out of favor with airlines globally as the pandemic forces carriers to cut costs. Photo: Alan Wilson via Wikimedia Commons

The pandemic has undoubtedly influenced the decision to switch. As airlines retire hundreds of widebodies, Plus Ultra has the chance to snap up aircraft like the A330 or 777 at much cheaper rates than in 2019. Looking at the operational efficiency offered by these aircraft, the switch might be worth it. However, with lease agreements set in advance, it will be at least 2023 until any fleet changes take place.

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For those unfamiliar, Plus Ultra is a Spanish long-haul airline serving destinations in South America. The carrier started operations in 2015 and flies to three destinations currently. Namely, these are connections from Madrid to Lima, Caracas, Guayaquil, and Quito, and one connection from Tenerife to Caracas.

As is true for most long-haul-oriented airlines, the pandemic has been challenging. Much of Plus Ultra’s fleet was sitting on the ground last year as borders were closed and passenger traffic plummeted. However, as borders slowly open up, the carrier has been able to return to many of its destinations, even if in a limited capacity.

Plus Ultra A340
Plus Ultra is currently flying cargo flights to maximize revenue while routes remain limited. Photo: Pedro Aragão via Wikimedia Commons

According to, Plus Ultra’s planes have been busy flying cargo from China to Europe, South America, and beyond to help survive the pandemic. Only one jet, EC-MQM (A343), is currently ferrying passengers from Madrid to one of its four destinations.

Vast market

Given the deep cultural ties between Spain and South America due to its colonial past, airlines in the country operate dozens of long-haul flights to serve the market. While the reverse is not true, Plus Ultra entered the market to tap into this segment and has been doing so for nearly six years now.

This connectivity is not specific to Spain either, with Portuguese carriers similarly offering routes to Brazil to serve the massive populations with historical ties. As the pandemic slowly eases globally, passengers are now eager to meet their loved ones, with the VFR segment leading the aviation recovery for the foreseeable future.

What do you think about Plus Ultra’s decision to retire its A340s? Let us know in the comments!