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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
[Featured Photo: 11180Cuong/PxHere]