40 Years Of The Saab 340: Today’s Biggest Passenger Operators

The longest scheduled Saab 340 flight in February has a block time of nearly three hours.

On January 25th, the versatile Saab 340 celebrated the 40th anniversary of its first flight. It took to the sky in 1983 and entered commercial service a year later. According to and across all remaining variants, there are 155 active aircraft globally. Not surprisingly, the Saab 340B Plus, with multiple enhancements, remains the most popular.

Far more than ‘just’ a short-range, roughly 34-seat regional aircraft, the 155 in-service aircraft involve 36 passenger and freight operators, air forces, coast guards, the United Nations, and more. Even my alma mater, Cranfield University, has one, which Air Transport Management students, among others, can fly as part of their course.


Australia’s Rex has half of the flights

According to Cirium data, the Saab 340 has 10,578 non-stop scheduled passenger flights planned in February. Multi-stop operations, as frequently undertaken by the type’s primary operator, Rex, most famously a day-long seven-stopper within Queensland, are broken into single legs. Indeed, it should be no surprise to anyone that Rex is responsible for half of all Saab 340 services globally. After all, it has approximately 56 active examples, making it by far the most significant operator globally.

The top ten airlines, shown below, account for 9 in 10 Saab 340 scheduled flights in February. Note that Australia’s Link Airways uses the type itself and also on behalf of Virgin Australia (see below). Canada’s Pacific Coastal does similar for WestJet Link. But unlike the Link, Pacific Coastal has relatively few Saab 340 flights in its own right, heavily influenced by cold February and the consequential far lower activity.

  • Rex (Australia): an estimated 5,203 Saab 340 flights in February (49.2%)
  • WestJet Link (Canada; operated by Pacific Coastal): 748 (7.1%)
  • Loganair (Scotland): 658 (6.2%)
  • Pascan Aviation (Canada): 604 (5.7%)
  • Link Airways (Australia; operating its own services: 520 (4.9%)
  • Virgin Australia (operated by Link Airways): 464 (4.4%)
  • TAG Airways (Guatemala): 402 (3.8%)
  • EZAir (Dutch Caribbean): 316 (3.0%)
  • CM Aviation (Honduras): 315 (3.0%)
  • Air Chathams (New Zealand): 238 (2.2%)

Head on photo of the Saab 340

Photo: Saab.

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The following table shows all Saab 340 routes in February with at least 100 departing flights. The 147-mile (236km) hop from Sydney to Canberra, linking Australia’s biggest city to its capital, has more Saab 340 flights in February than any other route, analysis of Cirium data reveals. Link Airways operates an average of 8 daily, but 10 daily during the week, on behalf of Virgin Australia; it is the only route on which Virgin uses the Saab.

The Saab 340’s average sector distance is 211 miles (340km) in February. However, the world’s longest scheduled passenger route is over three times as long: Air Chatham’s Auckland to Norfolk Island. Operating twice-weekly, it covers 678 miles (1,090km), almost all of which is over the Tasman Sea. Located more than halfway to New Caledonia, it has a block time to and from Norfolk Island of 2h 45m.

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