Airbus Aims To Reduce A340 Operating Costs

 - December 16, 2013, 10:50 AM
Airbus plans to recertify the A340-600 to carry 475 passengers. (Photo: Airbus)

Aiming to reduce exposure to potential residual-value guarantee (RVG) claims for the A340 twin-aisle quad-jet, Airbus plans to recertify the aircraft to carry 475 passengers, while Rolls-Royce works to improve the type’s engine efficiency and maintenance costs. The European manufacturer told a stakeholders’ forum on December 4 that with increased capacity and lower maintenance charges and ownership costs, the A340-600 can compete against the Boeing 777-200ER and -300ER and replace larger 747-400s. Airbus expects airworthiness approval by the beginning of 2015, according to Airbus A340 asset-management vice president Andreas Hermann.

Although 358 of the 377 A340s built remain in service, more than 50 sit in storage. A340 sales dried up when operators moved into twin-engine widebodies, such as the sibling A330 and the Boeing 777, both of which offered improved efficiency and approval for extended-range operations previously the domain of four-engine aircraft.

To increase accommodation, Airbus proposes to introduce 35 seats in place of a forward toilet and a mid-cabin galley. The reconfigured cabin sports a single-class layout of eight-abreast seating at a standard 32-inch pitch.

The layout adds new seat rows, with some existing rows reconfigured. A two-class configuration seats 457 economy passengers nine-abreast in 16.7-inch units, notwithstanding the 18-inch minimum width advocated recently by the manufacturer. Airbus hopes it will not need to perform a “live” emergency-evacuation demonstration if analysis of the arrangement (retaining four exits on each side) shows compliance with requirements, said asset-management marketing director Marino Modena.

At 475 seats, the A340 would accommodate 8 percent more passengers while offering a 7-percent reduction in cash operating costs valued at a potential extra $5.5 million revenue per year. An A320/A330 operator introducing four A340-600s can save $1.25 million per year per aircraft, said Airbus. Savings accrue from commonality in parts, maintenance and training, compared with the cost of introducing a non-Airbus type.

An operator choosing the A340-600 over the Boeing 747-400 can enjoy a potential revenue advantage of $557,000 per month after accounting for all cost factors, according to Airbus. The estimate assumes 475 A340-600 single-class passengers and 510 travelers on the 747-400, fuel at $3 per U.S. gallon, and a 4,000-nm flight performed 584 times a year.

Compared with a new 777-300ER, Airbus claims a “mature” A340-600 would generate $433,000 per month more revenue, based on respective lease rates of $1.3 million per month and $450,000 per month. An A340-600 would make $216,000 per month more than a 777-200LR, it added.

Rolls-Royce aims to reduce Trent 500 four-engine maintenance costs to those of a Boeing 777-300ER’s two General Electric GE90-115s by improving service support, including “proactive use of used and repaired components and engine exchange.” A retrofit Trent 500 “enhanced-performance-plus” fuel-burn reduction package scheduled to enter service in the middle of next year would to save up to $200,000 in fuel per aircraft per year, according to Airbus.