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The Story of the Forgotten Emirates A340 Fleet

The Story of the Forgotten Emirates A340 Fleet

BY GABRIEL KRAMP Published on May 22, 2024 0 COMMENTS
Photo: Emirates

Emirates Airline


Emirates (EK), based in Dubai, UAE (DXB/OMDB),  is one of the world’s largest global carriers and is well known in the aviation world for flying a massive fleet of over 100 Airbus A380s as well as approximately 130 Boeing’s high-capacity 777-300ERs. But Emirates Airlines’s fleet wasn’t always as simple as it is now, and it operates many types throughout its history that may not be known to many, even those well-versed in aviation.


Airbus A340


One such fleet type operated by Emirates Airlines in the past is the Airbus A340. From 2003 to 2016, the airline operated 18 of Airbus’ long-range high-capacity A340s, including the previous record-holder for the longest-range aircraft, the Airbus A340-500.




File:A340-500 (1188021268).jpg - Wikimedia Commons


What’s fascinating about this fleet is that it’s rarely talked about in terms of Emirates’ past. Still, it played a significant role in the growth and maturity of the Dubai-based carrier. While 18 aircraft over 15 years isn’t many, it was enough to allow the airline to grow and sustain new routes that would not have been possible before.


Emirates was the launch customer of the long-range A340-500 and took delivery of the first ten of these modern-for-the-time aircraft in October 2003. The airline also took delivery of a further 8 A340s, those being of the smaller and shorter-range A340-300 model.




File:Airbus A340-500 Emirates (UAE) A6-ERG - MSN 608 (4219880276).jpg -  Wikimedia Commons


However, being a four-engined fuel-inefficient aircraft type, the A340, while versatile, presented high costs to the airline, ultimately leading to its retirement in 2016. During the A340’s decade-and-a-half-long tenure at the airline, the type operated on high-profile routes to the USA, Europe, and Southeast Asia.


Emirates A340


The exciting part of the Emirates story with the A340 was that the retirements of the aircraft were done extremely slowly over several years, and more than half of the plane wasn’t repurposed to new owners, despite their young age of just over ten years at retirement. Emirates returned four A340-500s (the original four delivered in 2003) to Airbus as soon as mid-2013 for scrapping in an attempt to phase the type out of the fleet and move on to fuel-efficient Boeing 777s and high-capacity A380s.




Emirates A340-500 A6-ERG | Departing Brisbane YBBN BNE is th… | Flickr


The remaining 14 aircraft were either scrapped for parts, left to sit in the desert, or transferred to new owners, though the latter is the least expected place to find an ex-Emirates A340 nowadays. The airline’s last A340 to leave the fleet in 2016, was transferred to new ownership in South Africa. 


The Emirates A340 fleet is an exciting story that shows that the airline was loyal to the aircraft type but was keen to move on to more modern technologies when available. The small fleet was, in a way, unique in that the airline, as always, typically didn’t lease the majority of its aircraft as it did with the A340. It also might clue one into the airline’s possible hesitancy in ordering the type in the first place, even if it was the launch customer of one of the variants.


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Gabriel Kramp
Student at the University at Albany, but grew up in rural Massachusetts. Dream job of aircraft dispatcher for Delta (favorite airline).

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