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Beginning of the end for Boeing’s 747 jumbo

By David Flynn     Filed under: singapore airlines, qantas, Boeing, Dreamliner, Lufthansa, Boeing 747, 787 Dreamliner, Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Boeing 747-8, Boeing 747-400

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.


Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 15/2/12 by AirportAddict

It is a bit of a shame that the 747-8 hasnt taken off (excuse the pun). It is an excellent aircraft but it seems that hardly anyone is interested - maybe boeing just wanted to cap off an era of 747s with something good.

Now i dont think there is any point in trying to build the biggest aircraft possible. If Boeing is working on a 777 that can fly from sydney to london in one go, well there is no need to have huge planes just to jump that far. the 787 and the A350 are about the right size aircraft for the world.

2 on 15/2/12 by here2go

ETOPS killed the Quadjet.

3 on 15/2/12 by AusFlyer

It's a real shame - The 747 remains the most majestic plane in my view. A380 is really just quite ugly.

1 on 15/2/12 by AirportAddict

The 747 will never cease to be a grat plane. The A380 will not go through the same sorts of steps as the 747 did. The 747 started off when everyone was thinking about bigger planes. Now the focus has changed and people are thinking about efficiency and range. The A380 is a good thing but it has come into the world at a bit of a weird time and has not had the effect on the world that the 747 did. 

4 on 15/2/12 by Ksmith

Although the 747-8 may not yet have proved popular with commercial airlines, there is still a good chance of seeing the freighter versions in Australian airspace, as the 747-8F appears to be selling in far greater numbers.

1 on 15/2/12 by AirportAddict

Take a look at the 747 who's flying page on and you will find its mainly freight. Wonder when the first passenger ones will be delivered to Lufty and Korean Air...?

1 on 15/2/12 by David

AirportAddict, the answer to your question about "Wonder when the first passenger ones will be delivered to Lufty and Korean Air?" can be found in this article - fourth paragraph from the bottom – "Due to begin flying with Lufthansa next month..."

1 on 16/2/12 by AirportAddict

Thanks... When will they change the business in A380?

1 on 16/2/12 by David

"When will they change the business in A380?"

Sorry, AA, I don't understand - who and what are we talking about here?

1 on 16/2/12 by AirportAddict

sorry.. should have said more clearly.

The lufthansa A380s still have the angled Business seat. When will they  be replacing this for the herringbone layout>

5 on 16/2/12 by djb

we need to wait & see how the 747-800 goes, two are being built as Air Force One. Also the a380 isnt having a dream run at the moment. Many airlines could be attracted to the synergy of operating the 747 alongside their other boeings & no special airbridges needed to off load passengers. Still think it looks a lot better that the slug shaped A380. And remember there is always cathay who is avoiding the a380.

6 on 16/2/12 by antskip

I don't believe Air New Zealand has ever had B747's to replace...

1 on 16/2/12 by David

Thay have two.

1 on 16/2/12 by antskip

thanks for correction!

7 on 26/3/12 by airtraveladdict

Good bye jumbo jet.

I've always loved watching the jumbo jet it was just majestic. But after flying in a few of them in the past 6 months, I am sad to say they are old and very tired. Despite what they airlines do to try to spruce things up, you can tell the plane is old and the noisy, unlike the A380.

But im not a Airbus fan, im a boeing fan so i look forward to flying in the dreamliner of intercontinental.



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