Aviation News

August 21, 2013

Final Airbus A318 Operated By A North American Airline Retired

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By: Jason Rabinowitz
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The last Frontier A318, taking off from Phoenix . Credit: Jeremy D. Dando
The last Frontier A318, taking off from Phoenix . Credit: Jeremy D. Dando
The Airbus A318 can be thought of as the black sheep of the Airbus family. With a grand total of only 79 airframes built, the A318 program was simply not meant to be. Earlier this month, the final A318 based in North America, belonging to Frontier Airlines, has been retired at the young age of 10. Delivered in late 2003, N803FR operated its last passenger flight on August 5th from Denver to Phoenix Sky Harbor, and now resides at Goodyear Airport where it awaits the chopping block.

Frontier was actually the launch customer of the Airbus A318 in 2003, but not the only North American airline to order the type. America West had also ordered the A318, but later converted their orders to larger A319s and A320s. TWA also ordered the A318, but never saw delivery before declaring chapter 11 and purchase by American Airlines.

When initially designed, the Airbus A318 made sense as a larger regional jet. Once jet fuel prices went through the roof, however, the A318 made less and less sense. Requiring the same amount of crew on board as the A319, weighing just 3,000 pounds less and having only 85% the seating capacity of the A319, the A318 just couldn’t find its place in the market. The introduction of much more efficient and economical regional jets such as the Embraer E-Jet series and larger CRJs sealed the A318s fate.

The British Airways baby bus G-EUNA on final approach to New York's JFK Airport. (Photo by Kaz T)

The British Airways baby bus G-EUNA on final approach to New York’s JFK Airport. (Photo by Kaz T)

The A318 does have one trick up its sleeve that still makes it valuable to a few airlines. The A318 is the largest commercial aircraft certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency for steep approach operations. The A318’s steep approach procedure enables a 5.5 degree descent angle, rather than the standard 3 degrees. This trick is particularly useful for British Airways, who operates a pair of A318′s (G-EUNA & G-EUNB) out of London City Airport in downtown London to New York JFK in an all business class configuration. This service is thought of as a Concord replacement, using the same flight numbers.

Elsewhere, the A318 can still be found operating commercially with Air France, Avianca and Avianca Brazil, LAN Chile, and TAROM in Romania, as well as privately. Similar to the A318, the Boeing 737-600 suffered the same fate as the A318, with only 69 airframes produced. The 737-600, however, can be found operating within North America with Westjet.

So long, Frontier baby bus, we hardly knew you!

  • Scott Hamilton

    The A318 was Airbus’ response to kill the MD-95.

  • Eggman

    The article makes some good points as to why the A318 never took off (pun intended) but missed out one important point: it never received the engines it was designed for (much like the A340-300). The PW6000 engine was very delayed, so Airbus offered CFM56s as an alternative, and when the PW6000 did finally enter production it fell well short of its performance targets.

    • tej709

      Failed the frozen turkey test.