SriLankan Airlines, the first Asian airline to operate the four-engine Airbus A340 aircraft, will bid goodbye to the last of its A340s after more than two decades in service, with a final commercial flight today, (January 7, 2016).
SriLankan introduced the A340 on 1st September 1994, at the time when it was the most sophisticated aircraft manufactured by Airbus Industrie. Over this 21-year period, a total of seven A340s have served the Airline, and were for many years the mainstay of its long haul fleet.
The national carrier has inducted a brand new fleet of seven sophisticated A330-300 aircraft which offer the latest comforts and technology such as mood lighting, on-board Wifi connectivity, and the most sophisticated inflight entertainment system.
SriLankan Airlines, Chief Executive Officer, Captain Suren Ratwatte said, “The A340s played a vital role in our network expansion for the last two decades. This allowed the national carrier to explore new markets, thereby contributing to the country’s economy by bringing in more tourists.
These aircraft largely contributed to our Unique Selling Proposition of operating non-stop flights out of, and in to Colombo, which gave us an added advantage over regional competitors. As we send off these aircraft, the national carrier has embarked upon a new journey with our modern fleet of A330-300s, which brings together the inherent characteristics of SriLankan hospitality with modernity of world travel.”
SriLankan Airlines, Head of Flight Operations, Captain Rajind Ranatunga remarked: “The A340s were our long haul workhorses and it is with a sense of nostalgia and regret that we are retiring them. But we are very excited about our new fleet of A330-300 aircraft, which give our passengers a more comfortable and sophisticated travelling experience.”
The A340s were an integral part of Sri Lanka’s aviation history, from the highs of carrying numerous foreign dignitaries including Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis, to crises such as rushing in aid to the island following the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.
The A340s were introduced to replace SriLankan’s aging fleet of Lockheed L1011 Tristars, at a time when twin-engine aircraft did not quite have the range to fly non-stop from Colombo to SriLankan’s farthest destinations such as London and Tokyo. The A340 had a range of over 13,000 kilometres and could carry nearly 300 passengers.
However, as engine technology improved over the years, the twin-engine A330s began to operate on these routes, replacing the A340s which have a higher fuel consumption due to having four engines versus two.
The last of the seven A340, bearing the registration 4R-ADF will end the Airline’s association with A340 when it touches down at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport from Chennai at 10:50 am today, after which it will be returned to its aircraft lessor. The other A340s were retired over the last 10 months.