Launch Customers – Which Airlines Were First To Fly Each Airbus Plane?

Two days ago, we wrote about which airlines were the first to fly each Boeing plane. Now it is time that we do the same with Airbus. With a 60 year history, we will look at every Airbus model, starting with the launch program, the A300.

A300B
The A300 was the first plane designed by Airbus. Air France was the launch operator. Photo: Airbus

The A300

The A300 program was launched after France and Germany signed a milestone agreement at the 1969 Paris Airshow. The first commercial flight for the type was on May 23, 1974. Air France operated the aircraft on a flight between Paris and London.

The A300 had a range of up to 7,500 kilometers and could typically seat 247 passengers. Airbus built 561 A300 across almost four decades.

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The A310

After the success that was the A300, Airbus launched the A310. This aircraft had a range of up to 8,050 kilometers. Airlines could seat typically between 190 and 230 passengers.

Until very recently, the A310 continued flying in the Western hemisphere. Air Transat retired the aircraft amidst the pandemic. But the launch customer of the A310 was Swissair, back in April 1983. Airbus built 255 A310 across two decades.

A320 air france
Air France was the launch customer for the original A320 in 1988. Photo: Getty Images

The A320

The narrowbody A320 is the most successful story of Airbus. As of October 2020, Airbus had built more than 10,000 A320 family aircraft. The A320 family variants are the A318, A319, A320, and A321 (the last two with its NEO versions).

Airbus started producing the A320 family in 1987. As with the A300, Air France introduced the A320 in 1988.

The A330

The A330 had its first flight in November 1992. So far, Airbus has built 1,818 A330 aircraft across 28 years. It has delivered 1,505 to 122 customers.

The first airline to operate the A330 was Air Inter, a now-defunct French domestic carrier. In 1997 it merged with Air France, after four decades of operation from Orly Airport in Paris.

Airbus continues to produce the A330. Last month, Kuwait Airways operated the world’s first passenger A330-800 flight.

The A340

Right around the same time Airbus was introducing the A330, it also built the A340. The first aircraft of this type flew on October 25, 1991, 29 years ago. The program has a long and rich history. Lufthansa was the launch customer of the A340. It received the first aircraft on February 2, 1993, and put it into service on March 15.

Lufthansa A340 rainbow
Lufthansa was the commercial launch customer for the Airbus A340 in March 1993. Photo: Getty Images

The A350

The A350 is the latest aircraft designed by Airbus so far. It had its first flight in June 2013. As of October 2020, Airbus had 930 orders for the type and had delivered 391 units.

On January 15, 2015, the first A350-900 entered service with Qatar Airways. Almost three years later, on February 24, 2018, Qatar Airways also launched the A350-1000.

The A380

The superjumbo might be the most iconic aircraft ever built by Airbus. Its history is one of excitement, drama, and a too-soon retirement.

Airbus presented the A380 at a ceremony in Toulouse in January 2005. After years of design, it received certification in December 2006. One year later, Singapore Airlines took delivery of the first A380 in October.

As of October 2020, Airbus totaled 251 orders of the program and has delivered 243 A380s.

airBaltic A220-300
Air Baltic was the launch operator of the A220-300; Swiss operated the first A220-100. Photo: Getty Images

The A220

Finally, we have to talk about the Airbus A220. Airbus didn’t design this aircraft, but it has a great potential of becoming the next hit in the industry. Bombardier launched the type under the name CSeries back in 2013.

Swiss International Air Lines introduced the first CS100 in 2016. Meanwhile, airBaltic later received the first CS300. Now, these two aircraft are known as Airbus A220-100 and A220-300.

According to Airbus, there have been 100 orders for the A220-100, and 542 for its bigger brother. So far, it has delivered 134 aircraft.

How many models of Airbus have you traveled in? Let us know in the comments.


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