At the time of their introductions in the early to mid-1990s, the A330 and A340 families were Airbus’ next-generation of long-haul aircraft, capable of carrying over 400 passengers across the globe. However, despite being released within a year of each other, the A330 has fared far better, with over 1,100 more deliveries than its four-engined counterpart. Let’s examine why this has been the case.

All about the engines

The A340 first took to the skies in October 1991, highlighting Airbus’ new flagship aircraft. Less than six months later, another jet had its maiden test flight: the A330. While retaining several common features, the two differ on one key point: the number of engines. While the A340 is a quad-engine aircraft, the A330 is a twin-engine jet. The former entered service in March 1993, and the latter in January 1994.

This strategy is not surprising given the time, of their launches. The A340 was after the market dominated by the Boeing 747, which had transformed long-haul travel. The four engines allowed it to fly on ultra-long-haul routes with space for over 320 passengers (three-class). Meanwhile, the A330 was looking to compete with the Boeing 767 and 757 families, which had grown in popularity thanks to ETOPS.

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White Airbus A340 & Korean Air Airbus A330

So what went wrong for the A340 and right for the A330? While the former produced its last aircraft in 2012, the latter has been relaunched as the A330neo. This model will likely give the Airbus A330 family as a whole many more orders over the coming years, which would see it increase the sales gap between it and the A340.

Better efficiency

The A340 saw strong sales early on, with airlines like Lufthansa, Air France, Iberia, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, and many more. This was because, at the time, four engines remained the norm for most long-haul routes, with near ETOPS guidance largely affecting transatlantic routes. This meant the 747 and the A340 still played an important role in getting passengers to far-flung destinations.

However, this changed with the introduction of the Boeing 777. With an ETOPS rating of 180 minutes at the time of its launch, the twin-engine aircraft provided the range needed to fly most long-haul routes, without the need for four engines to be present. This proved to be a great challenge to Airbus, as the A340 seated a similar number of passengers, but was less efficient due to having four engines.

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Lufthansa Airbus A340 & Air Canada (Star Alliance Livery) A330

The A340’s sales fell sharply after the Boeing 777 entered the market. This difference in fortunes became especially pronounced after the triple-seven’s second-generation variants, with greater ranges and capacities, entered service. However, the A330 did not follow this path and had secured its own major market.

The plane that can do it all

While the A340 was restricted by its efficiency, the A330 was a jack-of-all-trades for airlines. With a long-range and long fuselage, the aircraft could comfortably seat 300 passengers (in a two or three-class layout). Additionally, airlines could use denser configurations for shorter but busier corridors. This made it the perfect choice for various carriers who used it for a myriad of purposes.

As time passed, the A330 retained its popularity, and saw its orders skyrocket. Meanwhile, Boeing’s 757 and 767 families were only getting older, so it released the 787 series to serve this key market. Nonetheless, Airbus’ offering has done extremely well, with over 1,500 deliveries in the 29 years since it entered service.

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Swiss Airbus A340 & A330

Meanwhile, the four-engined A340 only saw 380 examples built in its 21 years of production. The type has primarily faded from fleets in recent years, especially due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on quadjet usage. However, fans can still find the type flying with Lufthansa, along with a select few other operators.

What do you make of Airbus’ A330 and A340 models? If you’ve flown on both, which is your favorite? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

  • rsz_airbus_50th_years_anniversary_formation_flight_-_air_to_air


    Stock Code:

    Date Founded:

    Guillaume Faury

    Headquarters Location:
    Toulouse, France

    Key Product Lines:
    Airbus A220, Airbus A320, Airbus A330, Airbus A340, Airbus A350, Airbus A380

    Business Type:


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