20 Years Of Service: Inside SAS’ Airbus A340 Operations

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) had a total of eight A340-300s (code: 343), the last of which was retired at the end of 2020. Seven aircraft were delivered in 2001 and 2002, with the final example (LN-RKP) delivered in 2013 – which was the first to be retired. SAS’s widebody fleet revolved around the 343 until 2016, after which the A330 was more dominant.

SAS Airbus A340 San Francisco
Almost all A340 flights were to/from Copenhagen, including San Francisco. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Most of SAS’s quadjets had a 247-seat configuration. There were 179 seats in economy (in a 31″ to 32″ pitch), followed by 28 in premium economy and 40 in business. When combined, all eight aircraft had total estimated flight hours of 729,000, according to ch-aviation.com.

The most used A340-300 was LN-RKG. This was delivered to SAS in September 2001 (that fateful month and year) and had a total of 94,334 hours and 10,665 flight cycles with the carrier. In 2019, it was used for an average of 13 hours and 56 minutes.

Airbus A340, Value, 2021
The USA saw the most SAS A340 services. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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SAS’s widebody fleet

The Scandinavian operator’s long-haul network revolved around the four-engine A340 for many years, as shown in the following figure. Perhaps surprisingly, the A330-300 overtook it by total flights only in 2016.

Notice the B767-300ER was used until 2005 and again in 2013. In 2013, SAS leased a 246-seat Omni Air aircraft to operate two of the 11-weekly Copenhagen-Newark flights between the end of June and mid-August. Note too the arrival of SAS’s first A350. It arrived in late 2019 and was put to use in January 2020 from Copenhagen to Chicago.

The A330 overtook the A340 for flights in 2016. Image: Simple Flying using data from OAG

90% of A340 flights on 10 routes

If the period between 2004 and 2020 is combined, SAS had just over 63,000 round-trip flights by the 343, analyzing data from data experts OAG confirms. The vast bulk of flights were from its hub at Copenhagen, as clearly demonstrated by the 10 routes on which the quad was most used in these 16 years. SAS has always had a pretty concentrated long-haul network, normally with a big focus on Star Alliance hubs.

  1. Copenhagen to Beijing: approximately 11,275 round-trip flights
  2. Copenhagen – Tokyo Narita: 11,077
  3. Copenhagen – Chicago: 8,489
  4. Copenhagen – Shanghai Pudong: 6,443
  5. Copenhagen – Bangkok (normally continuing to Singapore until 2006): 7,034
  6. Copenhagen – San Francisco: 4,851
  7. Copenhagen – Seattle: 3,792
  8. Copenhagen – Newark: 3,653
  9. Copenhagen – Washington Dulles: 3,498
  10. Stockholm – Beijing: 770
SAS' top-10 A340 routes
These 10 airport pairs had over 90% of flights by the quad. The 4,868-mile link between Copenhagen and Seattle was served by the variant until 2009, after which the route was pulled. Image: GCMap

Tokyo to Tromsø

The A340-300 was also used on a range of short-haul one-offs together with limited service on other long-haul routes. These included Copenhagen to Delhi (2008 and 2009), Copenhagen and Dubai (2007-2011), and Stockholm and Los Angeles (2016-2018).

But perhaps most exciting were the non-stop offerings from Tokyo Narita to the Norwegian airports of Bergen, Harstad-Narvik, Lakselv, and Tromsø, together with Kiruna in Sweden, all in partnership with a Japanese tour operator. The A340 operated only one Tromsø service (in 2009), which is brilliantly shown in this YouTube video.

Did you fly the A340 with SAS? If so, where did you go and what are your memories? Let us know by commenting.

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