Actually, I think the fact that AF
operates both the A340 and the 777 in its fleet (and is continuing to buy 777's) does indeed tell us that the 777 is more efficient in most applications. After all, the A340 had been in the fleet at AF
first; adding the 777 entailed the additional cost of a new fleet type, as well as the significant political cost of not purchasing the French/European product (assembled IN
France; as Alain Mengus puts it, "How did a 94.57%-stated-owned company manage to order US products despite the intense political pressure?"). While AF
does successfully operate both the A340-300 and 777-200 in its fleet, carefully tailoring the airliner used to the route, AF
*declined* purchasing A340-600's, choosing to order 777-300ER's instead. By the time the first 777-200ER was delivered to AF
, they had 14 A340's in the fleet; it would be difficult and costly (as the operator of more than 10% of the in-service A340's), not to mention politically untenable to phase them out of the fleet. There must be a compelling reason for AF
to operate 777's, especially given the existence of the competing A340-500 and -600 which it has NOT ordered. I do not believe that AF
would have taken on the additional operating cost of an extra fleet type, as well as the political cost of not ordering the French-assembled product, simply for a few more seats' worth of revenue on selected long-haul flights.
The choice of certain airlines to purchase certain aircraft based on initial purchase cost or long-term operating cost varies from carrier to carrier. But the same is true for consumers buying cars. Toyota and Honda don't generally have the lowest prices on cars, but many people are willing to pay extra money at purchase time because they know that the long-term costs associated with those manufacturers' cars will be relatively low.
But to get back on topic, there is NO WAY United will purchase the A340 within the next ten years (if ever). Cockpit commonality benefits them little since an A319/320 pilot is unlikely to move quickly to a large widebody. And the A340-500 doesn't offer much additional range over the 777-200LR (not enough to justify the high cost of another type). And that doesn't even begin to take into account the fact that UAL won't be in any position to be placing large widebody orders for several years, given that they are in bankruptcy.
[Edited 2003-03-20 17:43:12]