The very first Airbus A340 takes shape inside their factory. Photo from Airbus.

The very first Airbus A340 takes shape inside their factory. Photo from Airbus.

I have always loved the look of the Airbus A340. In the early days of jet airlines, seeing a single-deck plane with four engines on the wing was common. By the time the A340 first flew on October 25, 1991, there weren’t too many Boeing 707s or Douglas DC-8s flying around. Even for the amateur aviation enthusiast, it has always been quite easy to spot an A340.

The engines might provide an easy tell on what kind of aircraft it was, but they also drained a lot of fuel. Airlines started to opt for two engine Airbus A330s and Boeing 777s instead of the A340. Due to a lack of demand, Airbus officially announced the end to the aircraft due to a,  “changing market dynamic,” (aka no orders) on November 10, 2011.

Although Airbus is no longer making the A340, there are still four that are left to be delivered. Two are set to go to VIP customers and two were ordered by Kingfisher Airlines. It is not certain when the final four will be delivered, but I am going to bet that Kingfisher might never take delivery of their two A340s due to their current financial difficulties.

The first Airbus A340-600 takes off in Airbus livery. Photo from Airbus.

The first Airbus A340-600 takes off in Airbus livery. Photo from Airbus.

Well, times have changed with ETOPS certification and today, two engine aircraft can fly much farther away from land than they used to. When the A340 was first produced, many passengers (and probably even airlines) were weary of flying over water with two engines and the Boeing 777 wasn’t even in production.

As Boeing Randy Tinseth points out in his blog, Airbus used creative advertising to possibly play off the fears of passengers who might not want to fly over the open seas using a two-engined aircraft. Obviously any fear that people might have had was put to rest with the success of many airliners who have successfully flown over open waters with only two engines.

Lufthansa Airbus A340-642 D-AIHE Leverkusen. Photo by Thomas Becker.

Lufthansa Airbus A340-642 D-AIHE Leverkusen. Photo by Thomas Becker.

There were a total of 379 of the A340 ordered and 365 are still in service today. Lufthansa Airlines is the largest operator of the A340 with 51 currently in service.

“Technological achievements during the last years today allow to operate aircraft of the size of the A340-300 efficiently with two engines, what hasn’t been the case earlier,” Nico Buchholz, Head of Lufthansa Group Fleet Management explained to “Still, on some routes the A340-300 is still superior to it’s twin-engine competitors, with regards to payload and flight performance. In light of the huge accomplishments made, however, aircraft of this segment now and in the future are clearly twin-engines, as demonstrated impressively by B777, A330, B787 and A350 aircraft.”

Currently,  Lufthansa is not planning to replace any of their A340 fleet anytime soon. “We keep on applying modifications to make them more fuel-efficient, reduce noise or make cockpit modifications,” Buchholz explained. “That being said, our fleet is economically and technically up to date and we have no huge pressure to make a buying decision here. We will decide at an appropriate time.”

Singapore Airlines Airbus A340-500 landing at LAX.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A340-500 landing at LAX. Photo by Bob Connolley

Singapore Airlines only operates five of the A340 aircraft, but they are unique in using them to fly the world’s two longest flights: Los Angeles (LAX) and Newark (EWR) to Singapore (SIN). Flight SQ21, from EWR to SIN,  is the longest scheduled airline flight in the world, which is 9,535 miles and takes almost 19 hours. Flight SQ 37, from LAX to SIN, is the world’s second longest flight at 8,770 miles and takes about 18 hours. Both of these flights exclusively use the Airbus A340-500 aircraft. “What the aircraft does is create a non-stop link between the US and Singapore for growth,” James Boyd, Singapore Airline’s Vice President of Communications for the Americas explained to

At the time that Singapore Airlines started the flights, the A340-500 was the only aircraft capable of operating routes that long. Even today, there are only two aircraft that are able to handle the route: the A340-500 and Boeing 777-200LR.

Even though Singapore Airlines also operates the 777, Boyd explained that they are not planning on replacing their A340-500s anytime soon. Recently the airline invested quite a bit of money updating all five cabins on their A340s to all Business Class, providing the same product that is found on their Airbus A380.

Singapore Airlines is unique due to operating aircraft that many see as directly competing against each other: the Boeing 777 and Airbus A340/A330, the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380, and they have the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 on order. Why? Because many of their routes are market and destination specific and each route is specifically matched up to the aircraft it uses and for them, that means a diverse fleet. Singapore’s two routes that use the A340-500s are very profitable and it wouldn’t make any sense to change out aircraft.

Air France Airbus A340-300 landing at the iconic Saint Maarten. Photo by Jordi Grife..

Air France Airbus A340-300 landing at the iconic Saint Maarten. Photo by Jordi Grife..

The end of the Airbus A340 leaves only two quad jets that remain in commercial airliner production: The Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental and the Airbus A380. As engines become more efficient, will there be more quad jets into the future? Probably not, but for those of us that get a kick out of seeing jets with more than two engines, at least we will see the A340 still flying for quite some time to come.

Lufthansa A340 – Thomas Becker
Singapore A340 – Bob Connolly
Air France A340 – Jordi Grife 

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me:
Airline Livery of the Week: Sunwing Airlines
Boston Flyer

You have to admit, the LH A340-600 looks awesome, and I would hate to see it disappear any time soon.


You’ve confused the length of the two long Singapore routes, the EWR-SIN route is 9535, LAX-SIN is 8770.

Also, this sentence needs help: “When the A340 was first produced, not only was there a few from passengers (and probably even airlines) on flying over water with two engines, the Boeing 777 wasn”t even in production.”

I’m no hater, I love the site and the reports, just noted these errors.

This is what I get while doing my final edits with jet lag. Thanks — all fixed up.


I agree with Boston Flyer. It may not be the longest but it sure looks that way (A346). DLH has daily flights to Charlotte and these vary from A333 to A346 depending upon demand. I hope to see the A340’s again soon when the holidays roll around.

Well, really the A340-600 is the longest passenger airliner currently in service (not for long though).


Manuel Vieira-Ribeiro

wow,the difference between EWR-SIN and LAX-SIN is only 765 miles.

John H Smith

Remember, they fly over the poles, the route planners don’t just pull out a world map and draw a straight line. The world is not round as it may seem but slightly egg shaped, the circumference of the earth across the equator is greater than that from pole to pole and back.

You can visualize those routes using the Great Circle Mapper with this link,+sin-ewr

The EWR-SIN does not fly over the pole. SIA21 has a regular route that goes from EWR and usually follows NAT Tracks that coast in over Ireland or Scotland.


A very enjoyable story to read David, and reflect on this wonderful Airbus airliner. I flew last month CDG to SEA of AF 340 and it is a delightful airplane to and somehow offers the visual feeling of a roomier cabin – even in coach – something comfortable and relaxing knowing that you have four purring engines on these long haul flights.

The A340 is such a beautiful plane! and I still haven´t flown one!

Manuel Vieira-Ribeiro

I knew that the they fly over the poles and the world is not flat.
It was just a tongue-in-cheek comment .

Hey, nice post for this aircraft, which was Europe’s first true intercontinental airliner. Its development so closely tied in with that of the A330. Its place was a world not yet ready for the kind ETOPs of today, a market it served well, safely until then.

A beautiful airplane, but inefficient, not as smooth flying, not as roomy or as fast as the 777. Unfortunatly there’s was no runner up in that contest

My favorite A340 ad that played off the two engine “fear” showed a picture of the A340 from above and said (I must paraphrase) why would you want to fly across the Pacific on an A340?, the answer is as simple as 2 plus 2. They were obviously referring to the four engines on the A340 versus other two engine planes. It was a clever ad by Airbus. However, most people aren’t afraid of flying across the oceans with just two engines.

Liked the ad where there where, I think two lovely ladies sitting in those very clean, spacious, bright Airbus A340 business class 2+2+2 seats, while they flew past some guy in, I think a 2+3+2 seating arrangement — an obvious dig at the wider 777 (747) business class cabins.

Also since the 767 is the most common trans-atlantic aircraft used.

The manufacturing of the Airbuses A340’s shall continue depending upon the airline companies order on which they don’t have it yet but this A340 is considered the best performance of flying without refuelling, its because I love this kind of of fleet so maybe I can have the opportunity to fly it’s big birds!

It’s not practical to phase the airbus A340 out because it is a good plane especially the A345 & A346 including the A343 while the economy is starting to boom high but it needs biofuel inorder not to drain a lot of fue!

It’s not practical to phase the airbus A340 out because it is a good plane especially the A345 & A346 including the A343 while the economy is starting to boom high but it needs biofuel inorder not to drain a lot of fuel!

You forget the IL-96 wich is still in production..

very limited yes but it has orders and they so far are still making them

Harry Singh

The a340 was a good investment some years back , it is still profitable for most airlines using it, a certain airline in the indian Ocean seems to have crammed it’s economy class to be able to cash in the maximum money forgetting the comfort aspect of travellers. Local buses in Mauritius have more leg room compared to the a340 used by this airline. Leaves a bad impression on airbus Industrie. What a pity.



Engines Turn Or Passengers Swim

Joe Barrett

My understanding is that Boeing lobbied the US air transport board and got them to bring in ETOPS to favour its 777. That done, the A340 was doomed for transatlantic flights – the very market it was designed to address

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