Commercial realism overtakes A340

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Airbus's decision to end the A340 programme follows years of dwindling sales of the four-engined type, which achieved overall orders of 377.

The A340-200 and -300 logged sales of 246 airframes, since the programme's launch in 1987, but the later variants - the -500 and -600 - managed only 34 and 97 respectively, said Airbus.

While Airbus's latest backlog figures indicate 379 aircraft sold, with four A340-500s still to be delivered - two for Kingfisher Airlines and two VIP transports - a spokesman for the airframer revised this total sales figure down to 377, with the two VIP aircraft still outstanding.

Airbus said the A340 became a "build to order" programme in January 2010 and sales in the market have since been exclusively for the A330 and A350.

"Recognising these market preferences, Airbus has decided to no longer offer the A340," it added.

The twin-engined A330 could serve most medium-demand routes which were the target of the A340-300, while the A350 can handle the A340-500/600 markets.

Advances in long-range twinjet operations, particularly with the A330 and Boeing 777, essentially reduced the attraction of four-engined types - although some operators have combined fleets which include twinjets and the A340.

"We will continue to fully support the A340 as we do on any other programme," Airbus said.

"There is high level of operational commonality with the A330, there is also high commonality on spares, and we will continue to support this aircraft for as long as A340s are in operation."

The airframer insisted the A340 "constitutes a commercial success" and had "proven its worth" by operating with high payloads from hot-and-high airports.

Airbus parent EADS said it had settled a number of contractual obligations associated with its long-range commercial aircraft programme through "termination" of the A340, and the release of liabilities had generated a positive pre-tax effect of €192 million ($260 million).