BUENOS AIRES - Aerolineas Argentinas (AR) has just received its 1st of 6 RR Trent-powered Airbus A340-600s, becoming the first Latin American carrier to do so. The aircraft formed part of a 1999 order aimed at replacing AR's ageing fleet of 5 Boeing 747-200Bs, in service since 1979.
"It is a very important step forward", signalled AR chairman Antonio Mata, who was finally able to publicly dispell rumours that the order had been cancelled on account of Argentina's crippling economic crisis of 2001-2. "We made a lot of sacrifices in order to allow delivery of these new Airbuses to proceed on schedule. The fact remains that the Boeing 747s are getting old and need a long term replacement. We cannot rely on them forever", Mata continued, adding that the ex-Air Canada 747-400s are indeed a stop-gap measure until the remaining A340-600s arrive, from 2005-8.
The new Airbus is inteneded to inaugurate AR's service to Beijing and Tokyo on May 28.
The A340-600 was launched by Virgin Atlantic in July 2002, and has since been delivered to Iberia, Lufthansa, South African Airways, China Eastern and Cathay Pacific, making Aerolineas Argentinas the first customer in the Western Hemisphere. It is the fourth variant in the widely successful A340 family, of which Aerolineas Argentinas already operates 4 of the earliest model, the A340-200. In a 3-class cabin layout, the A340-600 can seat 380 passengers, and boasts a maximum range of 13,900km (7,000nm). AR, which has been operating in a 2-class configuration for over a decade, will reintroduce 1st class on the A340-600.
The new A340 flew direct from Airbus' final assembly plant in Toulouse, France, to the Argentine Air Force Base of El Palomar, just outside Buenos Aires. From there it will fly to Ezeiza International Airport, for its official inauguration and to allow the press photo opportunities. It will launch the long-awaited not-stop service to Athens on April 16.
The aircraft will be registered LV-APR...because it's April Fool's Day.