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40 Years of Iberia and Airbus

In 1981 the first of four Airbus A300 aircraft arrived in Madrid for service with Spain’s national airline Iberia, commencing a forty year love affair between airline and manufacturer that continues today with orders for the Airbus A350, A320neo and A321XLR.

The A-300 arrived at Iberia to replace the DC-8-63 on high density European routes and flights to the Canary Islands (the Douglas type itself displaced from longer routes by the Boeing 747 and Douglas DC-10). An order for four was signed on December 28th, 1978, later expanded to six. The first four aircraft arrived in 1981 and were named ‘Doñana’ (EC-DLE), ‘El Teide’ (EC[1]DLF), ‘Tablas de Daimiel’ (EC-DLG) and ‘Aigües Tortes’ (EC-DLH). In February 1982 these were followed by ‘Islas Cíes’ (EC-DNI) and ‘Ordesa’ (EC-EC-DNR). Powered by two Pratt & Whitney JT9D-59A engines, Iberia’s A300s had a range of 4,200kms and carried a maximum of 255 passengers.

On May 11th, 1988, Iberia and Airbus signed a contract for fifteen A320-200s, took options on seven more and the carrier became one of the A340 launch customers. With the narrowbodies replacing the airline’s long-serving Douglas DC-9s on European routes, on February 29th, 1996 the first A340-300 ‘, named ‘Concha Espina’, arrived to replace the DC-10 on long-haul flights. All the aircraft were named after illustrious Spanish women, examples being ‘Rosalia de Castro’, ‘Teresa de Avila’ and ‘Agustina de Aragon’. The last of these aircraft arrived in 2003.

The first A340-300 flight was to Gran Canaria and the second to New York. With their CFM56-5 engines, Iberia's A340-300s incorporated a spacious configuration of 249 seats; five in First Class, forty-two Business Class and 202 in Economy. On January 4th 1998, one of the fleet, named ‘Emilia Pardo Bazán’, flew non-stop from Madrid to Santiago de Chile, covering a distance of 10,700 km in 13 hours and 30 minutes.

The first A340-600 of Iberia, christened ‘Gaudí’, arrived in June 2003, the type replacing the Boeing 747. Iberia eventually had some twenty aircraft of this type and over the course of its service with the company, the aircraft became the workhorse of long-haul routes, and saw the retrofitting of them with new passenger cabins and in-flight entertainment systems.