SO COOL: I Just Flew In An Old Emirates First Class Seat On An Unmarked A340

I just finished up an Azores Airlines itinerary from Boston to Ponta Delgada to Lisbon. My inner avgeek was probably the most excited about this itinerary given that the flight from Boston to Ponta Delgada was operated by an A310, which is a rare treat on a transatlantic flight nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing nice about this plane, though there’s something enjoyable about stepping back in time.

Well, earlier today I flew from Ponta Delgada to Lisbon on Azores Airlines, though unlike the previous flight, this one would be operated by a leased A340. You see, at the moment Azores Airlines is leasing a plane from HiFly, which is a company that wet leases planes to various airlines (wet-leasing means that they supply not just the plane, but also the crew). I’ve written about how HiFly has operated flights on behalf of La Compagnie and Finnair in the past, just to give a couple of examples.

This is typically intended as a short term solution for when airlines need additional planes, either due to increased demand, maintenance needs of existing planes, etc.

This had to be one of the coolest flights ever!!

Our HiFly plane was a former Emirates A340-300. It started flying for Singapore Airlines in 1997, and then from 2004 until 2012 it flew for Emirates, and then finally in 2013 HiFly took over the plane.

The plane is just white on the outside, with no logos or anything, which is pretty badass.

However, the coolest part was that nothing about the interior has changed. It was obvious that this was an Emirates plane based on the amount of faux wood used in the seats, around the windows, etc. Since Azores Airlines doesn’t sell first class, we were able to request the first class seats at no additional cost at check-in.

The plane was so damn cool. First class was in a 2-2-2 configuration, with a total of two rows.

The seats reclined almost fully flat (though this was only a two hour flight, so that didn’t really matter).

Meanwhile business class was in a really tight 2-3-2 configuration (keep in mind that economy is just 2-4-2). There were a total of 42 seats, but only two of them were occupied. It’s pretty surreal to see two cabins that look like this while flying, without people in them.

It’s crazy to think that Emirates offered this as their first & business class product at the same time that they operated the A380 — talk about a stark contrast in terms of the quality of the onboard product! Believe it or not, the A340-300 didn’t have an onboard bar or shower either. 😉

Equally fascinating was the crew. The pilots and cabin crew were Portuguese and worked for HiFly rather than Azores Airlines, so they truly work all over the world. They explained that they’ll temporarily be based wherever the plane needs to be stationed. They typically work 20 days “on” and then get 10 days off. The lead flight attendant was explaining how he was based in Helsinki a while back when Finnair was leasing the plane, and he’d just constantly fly back and forth to New York.

What a cool experience!

I’m curious what you guys think — would you love or hate to fly this plane?

Comments

  1. Ben, this is what I love about you being an aviation geek! Just admit all those new business class seats are plain boring.. This old A340 let your inner 13 yo boy out!

  2. That’s awesome! I was tempted to take Azores Airlines from OAK to Lisbon but wound up finding a great deal for biz class on AA/BA instead. Thanks for reviewing.

  3. I’m booked on this plane YUL-PDL one week from today. Really looking forward to it! Thanks for the tip on asking for first class seats at check-in. I wondered if they would just leave those empty or if they’d be available to biz passengers.

  4. Having spotted this aircraft on the tarmac quite a few times, I’d definitely love to fly it!

  5. They kept the A340 and A330-200 because lease to own wasn’t over yet. When it was eventually over in 2016 then for the airline didn’t make sense to keep them and refurbish because being old machines running costs were pretty high. So for as much as they hated to keep the old airbuses they had little choice. And I few them several times in both J and Y class (once in F) and honestly the first class compared to the top one didn’t make sense. None of the seats would become flat except for the First of A340 but I never got lucky to test it.

  6. The article says “cool” eleventyseven times (a thesaurus might suggest some alternative words). After the barrage of the cool-word, I am still not sure what is cool.

  7. I flew that aircraft when they where flying for Norwegian a few years ago. Had a former first class seat and got a good value for the seat I payed 500 usd for from JFK to OSL.
    A nice and historical first class seat 🙂

  8. Sometimes, I just picture you sitting in a hotel room and giggling while writing the jokes in your articles!

  9. @Lucky can you write a trip report on Makkah? It would be cool since it is one of most visited Middle East attraction,

  10. @Varun Susarla how can they tell? Just learn some basics on Quran on your way to Saudi then u can say yourself a Muslim..,

  11. Maybe I’ve seen too many movies, but If I saw my departing aircraft as an unmarked white plane with no logos, I’d back away slowly.

    No, I’m not paranoid…. wait, what was that noise???

  12. It’s even more interesting to note, that even as late as 2011, (I actually think 2012 though), that Emirate operated the A330-200 (same config as the A343 you flew on), the 777-300ER (either new or old) (suites or the SkyCruiser first) and the A380-861 between Dubai and Manchester, all on their 3 times daily schedule. It’s really weird to see the stark contrast of products operated to the same city at different times.m Now the same flight is operated by the A380 (2-class (used to be the 3 class or 77W)(3 Class)), the A380 (3 class) and the 777-300ER (New 3 Class). It’s quite interesting actually, but the service was still great. In Economy, though they didn’t have ICE, they had Emirates TV&Radio which was not even on demand but just looped shows and movies! First and Business had IceOnDemand which was similar to the IceDigitalWidescreen system but at a 4:3 ratio on the older low res screens. Wow, this post was such a throwback!! I just wish these aircraft were just reconfigured and used on Emirates’ regional routes like Doha (before the political downfall), Muscat and Bahrain etc.

    Good times!! Btw, it was amazing to see the A343/A332 product once again! Love this post Ben!

  13. It’s even more interesting to note, that even as late as 2011, (I actually think 2012 though), that Emirates operated the A330-200 (same config as the A343 you flew on), the 777-300ER (either new or old) (suites or the SkyCruiser first) and the A380-861 between Dubai and Manchester, all on their 3 times daily schedule. It’s really weird to see the stark contrast of products operated to the same city at different times. Now the same flights (EK17/18 EK19/20 EK21/22) are operated by the A380 (2-class (it used to be the 3 class A380 or 3 Class 77W(New))), the A380 (3 class) and the 777-300ER (New 3 Class). It’s quite interesting actually, but the service was still great. In Economy, though they didn’t have ICE, they had Emirates TV&Radio which was not even on demand but just looped shows and movies! First and Business had IceOnDemand which was similar to the IceDigitalWidescreen system but at a 4:3 ratio on the older low res screens. Wow, this post was such a throwback!! I just wish these aircraft were just reconfigured and used on Emirates’ regional routes like Doha (before the political downfall), Muscat and Bahrain etc.

    Good times!! Btw, it was amazing to see the A343/A332 product once again! Love this post, Ben! (Sorry, I was a little bit tipy while writing this, currently on Emirates A380!!)

  14. All this proves that Finnair is very cheap, as when they use a Hi Fly A340, which they do a lot, they provide the dingiest-looking and furbished one which evokes more Pre-1990’s Aeroflot than Emirates. Putting it quite simply, nothing works, at least in Business Class where the number of “quasi -Inop” seats is far above the percentage which works well. That means in no way that the inop seats are not assigned.

    They could of course use an ex- Emirates one and give the First Class seats to Elite Oneworld members but they probably would have to pay more for the bird’s wet lease.

  15. I was just looking at routes between Stockholm and Nice, France and it looks like Norwegian is using a HiFly A340 – wonder if it’s an old Emirates one. They seem to be using it between Stockholm and Nice, Malaga, Rome, and Barcelona. The business class seats can be chosen for “free” if you buy a LowFare+ ticket or one of the options that allows for seat selection.

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