Almost anyone who’s regularly flown overseas has probably taken at least one trip on a Boeing 747, but the grand dame of the skies is facing the end of her run.
Singapore Airlines will bid farewell to the last 747 when the jumbo pays a final visit to Melbourne this weekend, before being replaced by the Airbus A380 superjumbo.
The Singapore flag-carrier, which began flying the 747 in 1973 and was Boeing’s international launch customer for the popular 747-400 in 1989, at one time had the world’s largest fleet of the mighty jumbo jet.
Today the 747’s role as flagship of SQ’s long-haul fleet belongs to the Airbus A380. Singapore Airlines now has 16 A380s with three more to be delivered this year.
Qantas is another Boeing 747 stalwart phasing out the jumbo in favour of the A380 and Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.
Four jumbos have been retired from the Red Roo's roster since 2009, with six more being put to pasture this year – and, as a Qantas spokesman confirmed to Australian Business Traveller, "it's intended that all Qantas Boeing 747s will have left the fleet by 2021."
Last year saw Japan Airlines retire its last 747 as JAL shifts to Boeing's 777 and 787 Dreamliner, and a similar pattern is being played out by other airlines.
Air New Zealand and Cathay Pacific are among those adopting the extended-range 777-300ER as a replacement for their aging 747s, along with respective orders for the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350.
United is another of the the largest 747 customers, with 24 of the -400s in its fleet, but will trade up to a mix of both Boeing 787s and Airbus A350s.
Despite all this, the 747 name isn't going to vanish from the skies. Boeing is now rolling out the final member of the 747 family, dubbed the 747-8 Intercontinental.
Due to begin flying with Lufthansa next month, this fourth-gen Jumbo is a seriously stretched version of the familiar 747-400.
At 250 foot (76 metres) from tip to tail it’s the longest passenger aircraft in the world, and can seat 467 passengers in a typical three-class configuration.
However, we're unlikely to see the majestic 747-8 in Aussie airspace: not only is Qantas not interested but most of the world’s airlines have settled on non-747 models for the foreseeable future.
The only major airlines to place orders for the 747-8 Intercontinental are Lufthansa and Korean Air with just 25 aircraft between them, while Boeing has sold more than twice as many of the cargo-carrying 747-8 Freighter version.
About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.