SAS Flies Its Last Airbus A340 Into Retirement

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Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has officially retired its last A340. The A340-300 left Copenhagen for Tucson in the US earlier today. The aircraft, named Astrid Viking, will land in a few hours and will stay in Tucson for only a short time before heading to its final home at Pinal Airpark, Arizona.

SAS A340 retirement
SAS’s final A340 has taken off to fly to Tucson before heading to Pinal, where it will be scrapped. Photo: Sidowpknbkhihj via Wikimedia

The end of the A340 era

SAS’s final A340 retirement flight is underway. According to FlightRadar24.com, the aircraft left Copenhagen at 07:04, around fifteen minutes later than expected, and is scheduled to land at 10:14. Registration OY-KBM has been with SAS for almost 19 years, arriving with the airline in January 2002.

This final retirement flight has been a long time coming and is the end of an era for SAS. The airline confirmed last October that it would implement a fleet overhaul and that this would involve replacing the aging A340s with more modern A350s. This was reconfirmed earlier this year when a bailout loan from the Swedish and Danish governments came with conditions that the airline must lower its carbon emissions by using newer, more fuel-efficient planes.

Originally, the airline planned to retire all its remaining A340s to the south of France. After retirement, all of the airlines A340s are being scrapped and sold for parts. Parts from some of the first aircraft were kept in case any still operating A340s needed replacement parts. However, now, the parts will be sold.

SAS A350
SAS is replacing its A340s with A350. It wants to operate an Airbus-only fleet. Photo: SAS

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Who needs A340 parts?

As we previously reported, as of July, SAS was still one of the largest operators of the A340, with a total of six of the type in its fleet. Ahead of it in terms of A340 numbers was Lufthansa with 34, Iberia with 15, Mahan Air with 12, South African Airways with 11, European Skybus with nine, Plus Ultra with seven, and Hi Fly with the same number, six.

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However, Lufthansa has grounded its fleet of A340-600s, and they may not take to the skies again. Iberia, the second-largest operator, has also retired its entire fleet of A340s. However, plenty of airlines are still operating the A340, and considering some of Iberia’s planes are only 10 years old, they are likely to be snapped up by other airlines that may need spare parts in the future.

The future of Lufthansa’s A340 fleet is unclear. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | JFKJets.com

Replacing the A340

So, although some airlines still operate the A340, it’s going to be a slow decline until they meet their inevitable fate: an aircraft graveyard. As the A340s are phased out, some airlines are choosing to replace them with the new A350. SAS is a great example of this as it moves to operate an all-Airbus fleet. However, other airlines are taking different options.

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Swiss International Airlines just spent a fortune refurbing its remaining A340s, replacing the rest with Boeing 777s. Argentinian airline Aerolineas Argentinas was using A330s to cover the routes previously operated by its A340. And with the Boeing 737 MAX back in the skies, airlines have to consider the 737 as an option when the A340 leaves the skies for good. However, with some A340s still very young, it’s likely going to be a long time before there are no more A340s left.

What are your thoughts about replacing the A340? Are you sad to see them go? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.  

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