Until recently all aircraft purchased for Chinese airlines came via the China Aviation Supply Corporation. Historically this organisation has undertaken an eclectic and opportunistic fleet purchasing policy which has seen Chinese airlines operating almost all major types of available new jet liner at one time or another. Certainly fleet standardisation rarely appears to be a concern and so it has been that the big six (now big three) government owned Chinese airlines have operated all three of the major new competing long-haul airliner families of the 1990s - the MD-11, 777 and A330/340.
China Eastern's MD-11s arrived in 1991 and enabled expansion into long-haul services to Los Angeles and Seattle, via Japan, as well as Bahrain and Brussels. The MD-11s gradually began conversion to freighters in 1999 having been supplemented by 5 Airbus A340-313Xs from May 1996. The A340-300s were registered B-2380-2384 and were supplemented in 2004 by five new A340-600s, which finally allowed the remaining MD-11s to be converted to freighters.
China Eastern got good use out of its A340-313Xs but in October 2011 it signed an order with Airbus for 15 new A330s and as part of this agreement Airbus brought back the 5 A340s. They gradually transitioned out of the fleet in 2012 with B-2384 the last to be withdrawn in October. They have since been stored at Lourdes Pyrenees Airport in France and gradually broken up. In May 2012 the A340-600s suffered a similar fate however this time it was Boeing taking them in exchange as part of the airline's order for new Boeing 777-300ERs.
China Eastern however wasn't the only A340-300 operator in China or indeed even the largest as six other aircraft arrived in China following on directly from the first batch and registered in the same sequence (from B-2385-2390). Air China had inherited CAAC’s long-haul fleet which was built around the 747 and 767. This continued as the airline became a major 777 operator but in October 1997 it did briefly acquire a trio of A340s. The A340s were not in service long and were released to Cathay Pacific by the end of December 1999.
The A340 would be seen again in the colours of Air China but not until 2003 when China Southwest was absorbed. It had operated six A340s and these included the three aircraft originally with Air China. B-2388 was originally F-WWJD and was delivered to China Southwest directly on December 10, 1998. The A340s stayed in service with Air China for another decade until finally being replaced by new 777-300ERs.
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I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: