After more than 50 years, Boeing announced in July that it will bring an end to the production of the iconic 747 line in 2022.
Dubbed the “Jumbo Jet”, the 747 revolutionized travel in many ways including significantly boosting the air travel industry globally, spurring on the development of other wide-bodies and providing excellent support to the air freight industry. However, the 747’s market was threatened as both Boeing themselves, and Airbus developed high capacity, long range and fuel efficient twin-engine wide-bodies.
The latest 747-8i passenger variant fell victim to this, receiving just a handful of orders as it was already up against the competing A380 quad-jet, as well as other twin-engine models, which were better suited for airlines’ changing needs.
Regardless, the uniquely shaped humpback aircraft has won the hearts of many, including the pilots, crew members and most importantly, the passengers.
With just a handful of passenger 747s remaining, here are the few airlines still operating them. For those not lucky to fly in the jumbo (like myself), cross your fingers as the pandemic has added another nail in the coffin of remaining passenger 747s.
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Currently, Air China operates a mixed 747 fleet, holding onto three older -400s and five -8is. Their entire jumbo fleet flies between Chinese destinations, as well as internationally. The 747-400s tend to fly to European destinations while the 747-8is make their way to the western hemisphere to various U.S. destinations.
- 747-400: 10 first class seats, 42 business (24 in the upper deck and 18 below), and 292 economy.
- 747-8i: 12 first class seats, 54 business (30 in the upper deck and 24 below), 66 premium economy and 233 economy.
With four remaining 747-400s in Air India’s fleet, one might want to hurry to book a ticket as the airline has plans to phase them out some time in 2021. They will be replaced by Boeing 777-300ERs. For the moment, all four units are parked (one in storage), but occasionally they may use one of the jumbos to help with with domestic operations. It’s not clear yet when the airline will bring them back into service with spiraling infections in India.
- 747-400: 12 first class seats, 26 business (upper deck), and 385 economy.
Even though Asiana has eight cargo 747-400s, they also have a lone passenger jumbo (registered HL-7428) which still operates flights between South Korea and China. Their A380 cousins can’t say the same as they have all been parked. In an announcement last year, this single 747-400 was marked for retirement in 202as the airline sought to remove older aircraft from its fleet in an effort to maintain a modern fleet. The pandemic hasn’t affected the 747’s status (for now at least) as it’s still working very hard to move passengers between the two countries.
- 747-400: 10 first class seats, 45 business (24 in the upper deck and 21 below), and 304 economy.
Korean Air currently has two 747-400s and ten 747-8is in their fleet, and they appear to be keeping them close to their chest for the time being. Even though their jumbos are grounded for the moment (other than the occasional one-off flights), the airline has indicated that they will not be replacing them any time soon, and once travel picks up, their 747s will be back in the air.
Korean sits behind Lufthansa is terms of 747-8i orders, taking on a total of 10 (along with 7 freighters).
- 747-400: 12 first class seats, 24 business (upper deck), and 368 economy.
- 747-8i: 6 first class seats, 48 business (22 in the upper deck and 26 below), and economy.
Besides its eight 747-400s, Lufthansa is both the launch customer and the largest 747-8 operator, with 19 -8is in service. At the moment, the German carrier is trying to cope with the sharp decline in travel, resulting in them having to put many of their quad-jets into long term storage. All their -400s and 9 -8is have been parked while the remaining to -8is continue serving destinations globally.
The airline predicts that their A340-600s and A380s may never make it back to active service, but have not spoken outright about the fate of their 747-400s. In Pre-COVID times, the older -400s would eventually leave the fleet in favor of Boeing’s new 777-9.
As the leading customer for the 747-8i, the newer jumbos will remain with the airline for the foreseeable future.
- 747-400 Layout 1: 53 business class seats (22 in the upper deck and 31 below), 32 premium economy, and 308 economy.
- 747-400 Layout 2: 67 business class seats (22 in the upper deck and 45 below), 32 premium economy, and 272 economy.
- 747-8i: 8 first class seats, 80 business (32 in the upper deck and 48 below), 32 premium economy, and 244 economy.
Iranian airline Mahan Air still has one 747-400 in its name (EP-MNB). Based on data from tracking websites, it still is in active service, last performing domestic flights around Iran. Prior to September 2019, EP-MNB would have been in storage since October 2011!
- 747-400: 26 business class seats and 434 economy.
Rossiya Airlines, a subsidiary of Aeroflot, has a fleet of 9 747-400s. Based on latest data, the airline has parked just two of their -400s while the remaining continue to operate domestic flights around Russia, as well as to Turkey.
- 747-400 Layout 1 and 2: 12 business class seats 510 economy.
- 747-400 Layout 3: 12 “Super Space” seats, 26 business class seats, and 32 premium economy, and 409 economy.
- China Airlines – With four 747-400s still in its fleet, it’s unclear if they will ever fly again in a passenger capacity as the airline is looking to phase them out from the end of 2020.
- Iraqi Airways – With just one 747-400 still in operation (the other being in storage), there is no word yet as to how long YI-AQQ will remain in the fleet, with its last flight being flown on October 3, 2020. In pre-COVID times, both 747s were expected to be retired in 2020 as it aimed to renew its long haul fleet.
- Thai Airways – I didn’t give Thai its own spot (just yet) because while they operate a fleet of eight 747-400s, all but two have been parked. The remaining pair have performed a few training/maintenance flights, but that’s about it. At the start of 2020, the airline planned to phase out its aged jumbos (along with a few other older heavy haulers), but we wouldn’t be surprised if this date is brought forward due to decreased travel demand.
- Wamos Air – The Spanish carrier which specializes in leisure and charter travel (in partnership with Pullmantur Cruises) has since parked its entire fleet of three 747-400s. Besides performing a few repatriation and medical aid flights on behalf of various governments, it’s unclear what the fate of these birds are as the cruise industry also remains in shambles.
[Featured Photo: 11180Cuong/PxHere]