Goodbye to You

With the Dubai Airshow, all of our recent order announcements and the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ve been too busy to say a proper goodbye to the A340. So let me take the time right now.

The A340 had a long— but not so successful run. After its launch in 1987, Airbus managed to deliver only 375 of the airplanes. The most successful model was the A340-300, while the A340-500 sold less than 40 units.

The “marketing” for the A340 might be more famous than the aircraft. I remember a couple of ad campaigns they did. One in the late 90’s featured their airplane over stormy seas, implying that four engines were safer than two.


An Airbus ad campaign from the late 90’s.

Then, with the introduction of the A340-500 and A340-600 came the infamous “4 Engines 4 Long Haul.” As you can imagine, the ad campaigns didn’t sit well with us or with others in the industry.


An Airbus ad from 2002.

A few years later, Airbus threw in the towel by launching the A350 — a long haul twin of their own. From that point, the end of the A340 was in sight.


The 777 posts a record year.

While the marketing never clicked, the real issue came down to performance. It’s clear the fate of the A340 family was sealed when the 777-300ER and 777-200LR entered the market. The 777’s superior economics and passenger appeal simply couldn’t be matched. The proof was also in the numbers. Not a single A340 has been sold in two years, while the 777 just racked up a record for most orders in a single year. And we intend to keep our foot on the pedal.

Comments (34)

Richard Sawyer (Manchester, England):

I thought it was a bit sad when Airbus said they were stopping production of the A340 family, I've flown on a few and like the 747 I did like having 4 engines to rely on. Probably because I'm a whimp when it comes to flying. It never compared to the 747 because in comparison it felt 'creaky' and 'flimsy'. I just flew from Tokyo to London on a BA 777 and although I'm sure two GE90 engines are reliable, I would have preferred to fly in a 747 or an A380. Maybe I just need to haw more faith!

V V (Montréal, Québec):

Well, I took the time to say goodbye to the A340 in my blog (click here).

The two remaining passenger quads in production are the A380 and the 747-8 Intercontinental. Although the two are not direct competitor, both are fighting against each other in the relatively small 400+ seat market segment where market share is absolutely crucial.

By the way, if you want to play Santa Klaus, you can click on the "donate" button on my blog.

Richard Campbell (Nassau,Np,Bahamas.):

I really think its the price of fuel and the introduction of the 777s lineup that was the nail in the A340 cofin.but boeing should be looking at ways to improve this sucessful airplane(777)and not just sit back airbus is fighting back with a wider A350.
to directly match the 777 in everyarea.i have a few ideas how boeing could continue to win this battle.
so good luck.

Nathaniel Thompson (Kaneohe, HI):

I appreciate your comments about the A340 and believe that you are right on. I've always thought that the A340 was a bit of an odd bird - a relic from the pre-ETOPS past that came just a little too late.

All that said, your comments, coming from the VP of Marketing for Boeing as the are, carry a little bit of a "salt in the wound" feel. We all know that the A340 was a bad call and so does Airbus. It would have been better to let someone else make the comment (which the they are) rather than Boeing itself. When I saw the headline re-tweeted by flight blogger and I linked to the article, I expected more of a conciliatory tone - "it was a good try guys, sorry it didn't work out" or something to that effect. Especially coming from the company that launched the B764.

I make the comment only because I love Boeing so much - I'm a big fan of your airplanes and the job that you do. Winsomeness in communication is important too. Let the 777-300ER speak for itself.

Greg (San Jose, CA):

To Richard Campbell:
A350 is wider than 787, but NOT wider compared to 777.

Kevin (Los Angles, CA):

Isn't the 777 fuselage already wider than A350 XWB?

Vaidya Sethuraman (Chicago):

good piece esp on the ads; pretty poorly thought thru from Airbus -esp "the 4 engines 4 long haul"; it completely missed the twin advances , though ironically A was the first to get the A 300 , a fine plane in its class those days. More than the ads, it was poor product planning and not getting it right .
I only hope Boeing will invest in 300ER and revive 200ER taking weight off.It is the best wide body to travel, unless you are on a 747.

A T (Tokyo):

Those were some low blows.

The 777LR is a lot newer than the -500 and isn't exactly a bestseller either. Giving the A340-500 as a comparison for anything is misleading. It was and will always be a niche aircraft.

That said, I wonder why Randy doesn't mention the A330 models, which are directly related to the A340, and which wiped the floor with both the 767 and the 777-200/200ER. In aviation as in any other business new developments eventually trump old technology. Seeing as Airbus and Boeing are always one-upping each other (and competing in slightly different size segments) it is difficult to even fairly compare planes from the same generation, let alone ones from different such.

Antony (Rockville, MD USA):

What nonsense to imply unmatched passenger appeal for the 777! Most people have no idea what they fly though extra engines does appeal to many passengers esp. when crossing oceans (even when they know engine problems are rare.) The A340 is also very quiet and I personally prefer it to the 777s hands down!

Dave Anderson (Issiquah, WA):

The A340 never sold in very high numbers. I think there was one year when Boeing sold more A340s than Airbus, since some had been taken in trade for 777 purchases.

Henry Tan/Singapore:

I have flown on practically all pax versions of both the A340 and the 777. Leaving aside the seating comfort and amenities which is dictated by the customer airlines, I have always been more inclined towards the macho throaty roar of the mighty twin GE90s (and to a lesser extent the Trent 800s) as opposed to the whinny "hairdryers" of the now departed (production-wise) A340s.
Long haul twins rule the skies. Long live the Triple Seven.

ConcordeBoy (New Orleans, USA):

"Maybe I just need to haw more faith!"

...nah, you just need more education on the issue. FACT: quadjets suffer more diversion-causing issues than twinjets, and have a lower overall flight completion reliability. Not sure exactly what you fear (though I AM sure that it's not based on logic/ration) but in 2.5decades of ETOPS (basically, longhaul twinjet) flights, not a single passenger fatality has EVER occurred as a result of an incident in a twin that could've been averted/avoided with a quad. Not one. In millions of flights and billions of passengers carried. Not one. Think about it.

Adolfo Pedregosa (Hong Kong):

Well, the recession of 2008 sealed the fate of the A340. From an airline's standpoint 4 engines means more maintenance, more spares, more fuel and more manhours. And passengers won't mind if they are flying on a 4 engine or a twin as long as they get to the destination safely.

Frederik De K. (Belgium):

Let's not forget the A330-300 that put the nails in the coffin of the 777-200 shall we :). Sad to see them go, they made for great rides and I prefer them over the 777.

Tom (Germany):


sure, the 777 was a good answer to the failing MD11 and the "small" A340 (perhaps with the wrong engines).
The 777 finally killed the 747-400...and is competing with the 747-8I!

Emirates offers the A340 as a quiet a/c while the business class pax in the 777 may "enjoy" an ANR headset...I could compare the A345 and the B773-ER (I dislike headseats when trying to fall asleep!).

Are you only enjoying the time without any A350 ...
as a relief for the weeks to come?
Carpe diem!

Chris (Spain):

I think that was an unfair comment on the A340, especially the 500 and 600 series. I flew both and prefer them to the 777.

777 is a beautiful and excellent performer but so are the A345/6 which are not under powered at all.

777 IS a better seller purely on economics of 2 engines versus 4, that does not make it a better aeroplane, just cheaper to run.

The A345/6 are exceptionally comfortable and a pleasure to fly as is the 777, they are just different.

Stephen (Rye Brook, New York):

Hi Randy, I am an avid reader of your blog having lived in Seattle for many years and a huge fan of Boeing and its aircraft. My recent visit to Everett and tour of the factory was as always eye opening and made me very proud of what has been achieved. HOWEVER, perhaps a little balance in your comments was required. I recall that Boeing has also had some recent aircraft that did not sell in particularly high volumes, the 757-300 and the 717 come to mind. Also the 747-8I still needs to proove itself. Lets all hope 747-8I sells in higher volume than the 333 units of the A340-500 + A340-600 combined.

Leo (Somewhere between earth and sky):

Obviously, the performance of the 340NG was behind that of the 777-300ER, which explains the outcome of the competition, especially with current (and future) oil prices.

However, the "passenger appeal" argument is not based on facts. My experience with 340 flights (mostly -300 and -600) has been fantastic, especially with the low noise level. In the other hand, 10 seats across 777s have very little appeal in my book (yeah, I cannot afford business class).

Felix (Bristol, UK):

Despite being in Bristol, I don't work for Airbus. But the A340 can't really be counted just on its own when comparing to the common-or-garden 777-200/-200ER models. The A330-300, especially recently, has taken a lot of that market. The 777-300ER/-200LR though do beat the A340-5/600 hands down from a financial point of view.

However, the 777 simply doesn't have a superior passenger appeal. The A340s are quieter and have no 'double excuse me' seats in coach. The 777 either has one per row or two. The 777 is a fantastic aeroplane, but passenger appeal isn't its strong suit compared to the Airbuses. Where it is superior is on the airline's financial statements.

colin blake (London United Kingdom):

Bearing in mind the a 330/340 were launched as one family and came out years before the 777 and etops, it's done quite remarkably well when you combine all the sales. Furthermore it's not as if the 77A, 77E, 77W and 77L as described as seperate families.And meanwhile, the 330 is selling rather well. I don't see airbus glating that 77A and 77E sales have dried up- and these two didn't sell in spectacular amount either.

Jun Leido (Manila, Philippines):

Randy, as airplane enthusiasts, we will miss the A340. It was a beautiful airplane, unfortunately, based on age-old premise that long-haul airliners should have four engines.

Still, none should be taken away from the innovation that the A340 brought to the market. Congratulations to the men and women of Airbus who worked on the A340. The competition will be missed but will not be forgotten.

Ray (Angola):

So many ways to determine which aircraft was successful. In the beginning there was a market for a long haul A/C to maybe replace the older 747-2 and 3. Airbus beat Boeing and got the 340-5 and 6 out earlier so they got that advantage of doing some wing mods and new engines to replace the underpowered 300 version and started the sales blitz knowing the Boeing had the winner in the bag.
The 777-300er and the niche -200LR were on the table for some time and the goal was to get every bit of performance out of the model. Everything was done and the extra bonus that Boeing got out of the flight test program just was the nail in the A340 coffin.
Gentlemen it is simple. Airlines need to earn profit to stick around and the 777 does just that and the A340 did not.
I worked for a airline in the flight ops evaluation team for a long haul aircraft and we were going to be launch customers for the A340-600 and 500. The numbers on the final 777-300ER took the cake and we ended up being launch customers for this A/C.
That airline has no regrets what so ever. In fact they ordered more 777.
I guess that aircraft will be around for a very long time.

Dr Sanjay Pooran (Trinidad):

Hi Randy

I could not agree more.I have flown the 777-200 versions on British Airways from Trinidad to London and Trinidad to Mauritius and it will always sit well in my heart.The A340 flew briefly with BWIA( now Caribbean airlines) was the worst possible ride I could ever endure over the Atlantic pond.My hopes of seeing a Caribbean Airlines painted 777 were quickly dashed when they announced they were opting for the 767-300 for the London route.

My hopes are that maybe the forces that be (meaning MUR and POS) will swap
All their units for the 777-200 and 777-300 and do us passengers a favour and finally give us first class travel in a first class airliner.

Until then long live BOEING and Long Live the 777.

BTW British Airways will remain my choice of airline what a combination, the 777 and BA wow just simply wow!!!!!!!!!

Alek (Texas):

Well, as most of you know, each company have built airplanes that didn't sell well. The 767-400 was a huge failure, and so was the 757-300.

If you truly know airliner history, then you are aware that the 777 succeeded, only because IAE was not able to deliver the SuperFan Engine, for the original A340. Airbus had to turn to GE and Snecma (CFM56), at the last minute, to salvage the program. Pratt and Whitney is just now testing the engine!
Had it been available earlier, then the A340 would have dominated the market. Sometimes luck is better than talent.

Both companies have done very well, overall.

Martin (London):

The comments I admit were a bit harsh but some of you seem to forget the rivalry between Boeing and Airbus, like 2 school kids it is expected to take digs at one another, as airbus have taken digs at boeing. These are two companies trying to top each other every year! and the outcome goes either way, in all of the markets.

Daniel (Houston):

The truth hurts sometimes and I'm glad someone is talking about it. I barely heard a word when Airbus decided to end the A340 program. Also great to see such passionate discussion here. Thanks for waking everyone up Randy.

Steven (Los Angeles):

I have flown on a330's and a340's multiple times. I would rather fly on a 757 over the pond than in a a340 or a330. They are very flimsy feeling, very cheaply made in my mind. The 777-200LR is hands down the best aircraft ever made. People who complain over the engine noise being a problem with the 777 are irrational. The 777 has the most advanced noise reduction technology besides the 787 and the noise level is not bothersome or even noticeable after the first hour of a 10 hour flight. What is annoying however, is the rattling, and crackling of an airbus jet. I have flown countless hours on a330's and a340's and I run into the same crackling and rattling that absolutely drives me insane. Go boeing!!!

Sam Wong (Perth, Western Australia):

The way I see it, the point of the article isn't to bash Airbus, it is to bash Airbus' "4 engines for long haul" advertisement campaign specifically. His point was to prove that Airbus were erroneous, hypocritical and arrogant when they suggested that 2 engines are inherently less safe. The fact that Airbus' A340 sold only 375 copies, and has been outsold many times over not only by its own A330 but also by the 777, and even the upcoming A350 has more orders than the A340 had in its lifetime more than proves him right.

Airbus' 4-engined advertisements campaign is hypocritical for three reasons:

1. Airbus were the first to come up with the widebody twin category. When Boeing improved on it, and made one that has long haul and ultra long haul capability, Airbus decides to run an advertisement campaign which erroneously states that four engines are safer. Are they, then, saying that the A300, A310 and A330 are not safe to fly over water?

2. Airbus ceased development of the A340 a long time ago after it was outsold by twins - yes, that's right, twins. Whether they be Airbus' own twins or Boeing's, the A340 was, nonetheless, soundly beaten despite Airbus' attempts to smear twins.

3. The very fact that Airbus are now working on new long haul twin of their own further illustrates their hypocrisy on this matter. I wonder what Airbus would say when a customer confronts them with their "4 engines 4 long haul" advertisement when they're trying to sell an A350 ...

Andreas (Munich):

This point clearly goes to Boeing. They noted that '4 engines 4 long hole' was yesterdays' wisdom, just not valid today anymore. It was clear that the time will come, but Airbus and Boeing had different guesses when it would be. It's a conservative business (that's good, otherwise flying wouldn't be save), but when the time for change has come, not ads will stop it. From a passenger's perspective, both, a340 and 777 are very nice planes. Noise levels are low as compared to older generation planes like 747-400. And for the market, it's good to have two strong players. Given the costs and risks of a new development we wouldn't see as much innovation like 787 or a350 without strong competition.

Dr Sanjay Pooran (Trinidad):

Great to see everyone climbing on board this discussion,great for intellectual stimulus ,my hopes are that Boeing will review their plans for an expansion program and somewhere in future we will see maybe a 777-8 on the horizon

I hope the minds that run Caribbean airlines and Air Mauritius will show the same lateral fortitude their counterparts have shown over in India and make the wise switch to the 777 .Caribbean Airlines flying the 767 into gatwick will set them back by at least a decade when customers will have the option of traveling on a BA 777.The future prospect of any improvement in inflight service looks fairly dim based on current attitudes.We at least have a a gas subsidy here in Trinidad a luxury air Mauritius does not enjoy we should at least make the best of it

Boeing needs to be more proactive when advising airlines such as Air Mauritius and Caribbean Airlines on their choice of boeing aircraft especially when cultural glamour and technical competence synergize for the advancement of both economies .Both airlines run the risk of stagnating into marriage syndrome ,a familiarity of ignorance will not argue well for the future of air travel

Emirates did it and now Emirates is more than an airline it is a glamorous synergy of evolving ideas and technical glamour!

Common Boeing flex your muscles more in these countries.

Rob (Vancouver, Canada):

It has been interesting and fun to read the many reponses to the A340 being taken out of production.

I think the comments from Sam Wong (Perth) and Andreas (Munich) have summed it up the best.

As one airline industry person had said. We need both Boeing and Airbus to be competitive as it brings out the best in both companies and in the airliners they build.

Speaking of the A340, the only non stop from Vancouver to Frankfurt is Lufthansa's A340-600 flight which I have flown a few times. With Lufthansa recent purchase of 25 747i's. I'm hoping they will put one of these newer 747's on this route, as they used to fly a 747-400 until they recently replaced it with the A340-600.

Good luck on the 787 world tour and continued success on the sales of the 777.

Regarding the 747-8i and the delivery to Lufthansa. Are you going to have a similar ceremony as you did for the 787, seeing how the Cargolux ceremony had to be cancelled? Always looking for a reason for a road trip down to Everett.

keesje (netherlands):

Didn't Airbus pioneer big twins in the seventies? Directly competing with the DC10 and ..707.

The obscure 4 for long haul add is 9 yrs old FGS..

The A330/A340 line is pushing out 8 a month right now,just no longer the 4 engined variant.

The A340 variant didn't sell in large numbers, not in small numbers either; 375.

It was developped for those long thin routes, point to point, heard that somewhere else too..

Norman (Long Beach, CA):

I was frankly surprised that the A340 lasted for this long, particularly the A340-300 in the competition status to the 777-200ER. One thing is for sure, the 777-300ER nipped the A340-600 in the bud with its better weight, range and performance.

Kevin (Los Angles, CA):

I think many aviation enthusiasts would agree that an airplane over 70 m long looks more balanced with four engines than two. (Also, for an airplane 50~60 m long, a tri-jet looks more appealing due to its tail mounted engine.) But airlines need to turn a profit to stay afloat. Since the VLA market is projected to be very small, I do feel a tinge of sadness that in many airports, we won't be able to see anything other than twins.

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