In 2017, Lufthansa, one of Europe’s leading airlines, bid farewell to its Airbus A340-200 aircraft. The Airbus A340-200 served Lufthansa faithfully for several years before being replaced by newer, more fuel-efficient models to enhance efficiency and the passenger experience. Nevertheless, the Airbus A340-200 played a significant role in Lufthansa’s history as Germany’s leading airline.
Lufthansa’s Airbus A340-200: Expanding networks, improving travel
The Airbus A340-200 long-haul aircraft was introduced to the airline in the late 1990s, enabling passengers to travel to global destinations with its robust and reliable four-engine configuration. Passengers would have new travel opportunities when the A340-200 could operate long-distance flights nonstop to various international destinations.
Lufthansa’s mission was to provide passengers with a pleasant flying experience and create a space to relax and enjoy in-flight services while travelling to their destinations. A340-200 aircraft were perfect for this because Lufthansa not only designed the cabin but also made sure their aircraft accommodated many passengers and had ample legroom. Lufthansa’s A340-200s became popular choices for international operations and a familiar sight at airports worldwide, thanks to their spacious cabins and range capabilities.
However, the main reason why Airbus began work on the A340 in the 1970s was to compete with American manufacturers like Boeing or McDonnell Douglas. At that time, Airbus created a series of derivative aircraft derived from the A300B, the first Airbus aircraft, which differed mainly in length, capacity, range, and engines but maintained a similar general design and structure. Despite this, it should be noted that the most successful variant from that family was not the Airbus A340-200, which can carry 201 to 250 passengers in a typical layout and can fly 6.700 nautical miles nonstop, but the -300 variant that can carry 40 more passengers than its younger sister and travel 600 nautical miles further when fully loaded.
Airbus launched its A340-400, 500, and -600 variants just three years after the first commercial flight of the A340-200. To improve aerodynamics and strengthened wings, these variants had an increasing capacity, a longer range, and more prominent and powerful engines, Rolls Royce Trent 553 and Trent 556. In addition, the A340 inherited the A320’s Fly-By-Wire system and sidestick control.
Lufthansa’s Airbus A340-200: long-haul workhorse retires
From its launch in 1982, the Airbus A340 family was marketed as an ideal replacement for old aircraft such as the Boeing 707-300 and the Douglas DC-8. However, as the years went by, the A340-200s started to show signs of ageing. As aviation technology advances, Lufthansa recognizes the desire to upgrade and modernize its aircraft, introducing a new generation of fuel-efficient aircraft that offer a more comfortable experience.
Most of its original operators have replaced the A340 with the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787. Lufthansa also decided to retire the A340-200s from its fleet in 2017, but they ended production of the aircraft a few years early on November 11, 2011, after fulfilling all firm orders over the past two decades. 380 airframes were produced, 377 of which were used by airlines in favour of the more efficient Airbus A350 XWB, so the Airbus A340 is no longer in production. Maintaining the A340-200s was no longer financially feasible compared to an invest in efficient aircraft.
Although they were retired, the Airbus A340-200s left Lufthansa with a lasting legacy. A340 revolutionized the global aviation market by expanding the airline’s network, broadening its passenger capacity, breaking records for range, and ensuring exceptional operational safety while connecting people across continents. Nevertheless, the airline continues to operate some A340s today, and to meet the demand for air travel in the summer of 2023, Lufthansa decided to reactivate its stored A340-600s.
How would you rate the Airbus A340-200? Are you familiar with these aircraft? Have you flown on one yourself? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences!