This week, Airbus held a seminar in London on the A340. Yes, the same A340 that went out of production two years ago. It seems Airbus is trying to reassure nervous stakeholders that there’s still life in this airplane.
What’s at stake for Airbus? Quite a bit. They’re trying to bolster the value of these airplanes since it’s speculated that Airbus has a potential liability on RVGs (Residual Value Guarantee) for the A340-500 and A340-600 that could total $2 billion USD.
I’ve seen a lot of coverage that came out of the Airbus seminar, mostly focused on the same old claims about the A340’s capabilities. The fact is, the A340 came to an early end because airlines didn’t want to buy it. It couldn’t compete with the 777 because it was inefficient (the 777-300ER proved to be 30+ percent more fuel efficient per seat than the A340-600), had high maintenance and operating costs, poor reliability, and offered a passenger experience that couldn’t compete with the 777.
One of the more interesting nuggets to emerge from that A340 seminar was the idea to reconfigure the airplane with narrow seats, narrow arm rests and narrow aisles to increase seat count. It’s what John Leahy called “revolutionizing A340 economics.”
But John apparently forgot what he was pushing just a few weeks ago—an industry-wide standard of 18-inch seats on long haul airplanes. So what would a seat look like on these revamped A340s? 16.7 inches… well short of Airbus’ own standard.
In our view, passenger experience isn’t just measured by the width of a seat. That’s why we continue to work with our customers to give them the flexibility to showcase their brand, provide a great overall passenger experience and provide the economics that work for them and their passengers. It’s hard to go wrong when you listen to the customer.