On August 1, 2020, the A340-600 of the Spanish national airline registered EC-JLE and named after the scientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal took off from Quito-Mariscal Sucre airport, bound for its base in Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suarez. 296 passengers and a crew led by Captain Víctor Alegre Ramírez took part in Iberia’s last commercial A340 flight, which decided to replace them with “more modern and efficient” A350-900 – including to Ecuador.
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The A340’s exit from the accelerated fleet was announced in June, at the same time as delivery postponements for eleven A350-900s expected from 2021 (six of the 20 ordered have been delivered) and the 18 A321neo expected (eight in XLR version ), six of which were to be delivered from this year. Neither Iberia nor Airbus commented on these postponements.
The A340-300 was Iberia’s first four-engine Airbus in 1996. These planes are all named after famous Spanish women, including the poetess Rosalía de Castro, Saint Teresa of Avila, the 16th-century war heroine. María Pita or army officer Agustina de Aragón among others. The Airbus A340 (in version -200) had already made history in 1993, breaking the record for the length of a commercial flight with its non-stop trip from Le Bourget in France to Auckland in New Zealand (in 21 hours and 31 minutes).
Iberia first deployed its A340-300s on flights to the Canary Islands, then used them to New York, Mexico City, Bogotá, São Paulo, and Santo Domingo. In January 1998, they began flying between Madrid and Santiago de Chile, a 13-hour flight and Iberia’s longest route until it resumed flights from Tokyo in 2016.
The A340-600s joined the Oneworld alliance company fleet in 2003; until 2011, they were the longest airliners in the world at 75.3 meters, also with the longest range – 14,600 km. The A340-600 have all been named after « distinguished » Spanish men, including painter Salvador Dalí, novelist Jacinto Benavente, guitarist Andrés Segovia, architect Antoni Gaudí, composer Isaac Albéniz or painter Julio Romero de Torres.
Among the anecdotes in the history of the A340s, Iberia recalls the birth of a little boy on a Madrid – Bogotá flight, “under the command of Captain Jaime Ruiz Larrea and under the supervision of Commissioner José Luis Larios, who found a certain number of doctors on board to help bring young Juan Sebastián safely into the world at cruising altitude ”. The quad jets have also been used to speed up aid to victims of natural disasters that devastated Guatemala, Chile, and Ecuador, or to deliver 450 tonnes of relief to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Mano a Mano, the humanitarian organization founded by Iberia employees.