The Airbus A318, known as the Baby Bus, is the rarest aircraft in the A320 family. Romanian flag carrier TAROM is one of the only three airlines to operate the aircraft type. So why did TAROM choose the A318 for its European operations?
TAROM formally ordered the A318 in May 2004, purchasing four aircraft as a part of its fleet modernization plans. Deliveries for the aircraft type begun in November 2006 and continued into the end of 2007. These A318s offers 113 seats in a two-class configuration, with 14 in business class and 99 in economy.
The A318s are usually flying shorter European hops to cities like Paris, London, Frankfurt, Brussels, and more. However, they have flown slightly longer flights to cities like Amman, Jordan from Bucharest.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
Why the A318?
While the A318 is an interesting aircraft in its own right, it’s an odd choice for TAROM. The Bucharest-based airline operates a fleet of 12 Boeing 737s, with four 737-300s, -700s, and -800s, and 10 ATR42/72s. The airline has historically never operated an Airbus narrowbody, according to Planespotters.net, TAROM also has an order for five 737 MAX 8s which are due for delivery in 2023.
Considering all of this, the order for the Airbus A318 doesn’t make much sense in terms of fleet harmonization. However, the reason for the order may have been rooted in politics rather than pure business according to TAROM’s President Ioan Lixandru.
In a statement to FlightGlobal in 2003, Mr. Lixandru said the purchase was made to strengthen trade ties between France and Romania, saying the deal “happened to provide good relations with everyone“. He added that while he supported the deal, he wasn’t happy about the impact the purchase would have on fleet harmonization.
Subsequent CEOs have also failed to harmonize TAROM’s fleet due to the purchase of the Airbus A318s. The carrier is owned completely by the government, which has control over placing new aircraft orders.
Here to stay
While it might be tempting for TAROM to remove the four aircraft from its fleet and become an all-Boeing carrier, the A318s are likely to stay for a while. The planes are only 13 years old on average and continue to fly important services for the airline. However, with the five 737 MAXs preparing to join the fleet in two years, it could be the perfect excuse to switch to an-737 airline.
As mentioned earlier, TAROM is one of only three airlines operating the A318. British Airways notably used the plane on its London City to New York route in an all-business configuration. However, this route and aircraft were dropped in July 2020 due to the pandemic.
The remaining airlines include Titan Airways, the wet lease carrier, and Air France. While Titan only operates one A318, Air France operates a huge 18 aircraft. Air France uses the baby bus for many short European routes and will retire these planes in favor of the newer A220.